Summer Stock is the vernacular label given to lighter-fare, affordable stage productions, often performed in an empty barn, tent, church, or public house. Put on by amateurs and/or semi-professional repertory groups, they often had an accomplished star brought in to help draw crowds and to provide some education to the more novice of the group.
Omaha’s Gallery 1516 offers a visual arts-take on the theatrical concept with its latest exhibit, appropriately named Summer Stock. The gallery provides an impressive gallery venue for some emerging artists as well as some more established names on the gallery circuit.
The exhibit, which will run through August 27, features, Angie Seykora, Brian Wetjen, David Patterson, Bridget O’Donnell, and guest artist, Los Angeles architect Mike Nesbit. The five artists provide the visitor with a variety of styles and number of works to examine.
If you haven’t been there, Gallery 1516 is quite large, with high ceilings and open, vast floor space, bisected by a long, suspended, heavy-timber table. The five artists are arranged around the outside wall, without dividers, enhancing the expanse of the gallery.
Gallery owner Pat Drickey explained that it was intended to try to present the artists as equals in a cohesive group, but still give individual space to explore their personal vision.
“It was our intent with this exhibit to try to open the space, give the artists freedom to mix it up a little, to try to make it feel less like a series of booths at a County Fair or farmer’s market.”
The concept works well in general, however the small number of artists, all working primarily with smaller, wall-hung pieces, made the usually-impressive gallery seem overly spacious, as if an artist or two were left out. Possibly another exhibitor or two, with additional floor sculpture may have made this less noticeable.
A visitor is greeted first by several of artist David Patterson’s abstract acrylic paintings. These manipulations of brushstroke and impasto on canvas are immediately suggestive of some of Gerhard Richter’s abstract works, an impressionistic trek into landscapes and places where the lines between accident and intent, subject and interpretation, are deliberately confused.
Known for his more accessible impressionistic landscapes and flowers, Patterson’s works for this show are mostly overt, abstract studies of pattern, line, gesture, and globs of thickness, becoming three dimensional, begging closer view.
But, like much post-modern abstraction, providing little sense of direction or source. Two of the works of note; “Eclipse”, a melancholy, reflective lake scene bordering on the eerie; and “Luster,” a simple but strong piece that seems to portray the essence of luster, and may almost shimmer at times, both showing a confidence of statement and more reserved color palette.
Emerging artist and Print Instructor at Creighton University, Bridget O’Donnell has a confident grasp on most print processes. Her “Cloud 0-11,” a series of 12 stoic pairs, are lined up close together, emphasizing the twelve pairs as one complete work (though they are also priced individually.)
These monochrome prints are straightforward monotype (top row) and intaglio (bottom row) on handmade paper. The gentle and acutely textured “cloud-ish” images on top contrast well with the harsher, more expressive abstractions on the bottom, and the entire series presents an evolution of feeling and process, from light to darkness, from simple to complex.
The artist might have entertained a different mounting method however, as the natural wood frames seem to clash with the work, and the deep frames cast a distracting shadow on the upper part of the prints.
O’Donnell provides two of the highlights of the show in her larger, mixed-media pieces, ‘Depleted VI’ and ‘Depleted VII.” These bold and introspective works are at home on a bright red wall at the back of the gallery. The highly worked surface is dense with multiple layers of over painting and writing, and various passionate and vivid line and symbol elements added.
Angie Seykora is the only artist to have ventured out onto the large, open floor. Her repurposed sculptures provide an essential element for such a large space. The pieces — wall-hung sculptures, enhanced prints, and floor sculptures — feels like a well-designed installation, with everything looking perfectly placed.
The highlight of this multi-facetted artist’s offerings, however, is a small piece on the wall. The lemon-yellow rectangle, “Band,” looking like a bright, knotted, 1970’s rug remnant, is constructed from thousands of yellow rubber bands, and it screams to be touched (don’t, unless you have permission). Seykora’s offerings are deft evidence of her goals; interpretations using everyday objects, repurposing to find beauty and design in the utilitarian and overtly commercial and overproduced.
Brian Wetjen finds his inspirations in the natural world. This is evidenced by an extensive journal of sketches and photographs he keep on his website. Working lately in mostly watercolor and charcoal, his soft washes and minimal lines ultimately leave the natural source and become signs and graphic symbols of their own.
The works in this show, although inspired by the murmurations of flocks of starlings, are far removed from the actual dance we see in the sky. With sparse use of color, his work relies more on the textures derived from the watercolor/paper combination, and the graphic repetition and forms created by the charcoal marks.
Where Wetjen leaves behind the movement and flow, the synchronization of the critical transitions of the flock (what gives the aerial ballet that recognizable and mesmerizing current effect,) it is quite evident in guest artist Mike Nesbit’s organically architectonic silkscreens.
Nesbit, an architect and artist from Los Angeles is in town for a concurrent exhibit for the AIA. His work in this show are from his Phlatness series; multi-layered silkscreens of digitally manipulated lines and elements from dimensional drawings, that appear at once both mathematical and organic. As precise as astronomical maps and as fluid as Wetjen’s starlings, these abstract prints evolve into scenes and landscapes and expressionistic mesmerizing swirls.
Nesbit is presenting FLOOD, August 18th, an installation and talk at the Standard Oil Building, 500 South 18th Street, an event sponsored by the Nebraska and Omaha AIA (American Institute of Architects) and several local building-related companies. He will also give a talk at Gallery 1516, the evening of Aug. 17.
Summer Stock runs through August 27th. Gallery 1516 is located at 1516 Leavenworth Street. Hours are Friday through Sunday 11am-5pm, or by appointment. Further information can be obtained from their website at Gallery1516.org