Current and former directors display vision for CEPA
By JANA EISENBERG
Special to The News
"Artist Run: CEPA Gallery at Thirty"
Through Aug. 24
CEPA Gallery, 617 Main St.
The new show "Artist Run: CEPA Gallery at Thirty" offers works by 11 visual artists who also happen to be either a current or former director of CEPA.
Jeffrey Hoone, director of Light Work, a Syracuse-based by-and-for-artist organization, conceived the idea as a way to acknowledge and celebrate CEPA's history of artist-supportive activities. Not surprisingly, the works on view are as varied as the men and women who made them.
One instance is a five-monitor video display by current director Lawrence Brose based on a John Cage radio piece in which Cage distills a text by various means. According to Brose, "Cage: A Filmic "Circus On' Metaphors on Vision," as the installation is called, is an extended portrait of the composer, with sound design by composer Douglas Cohen.
"Manifest Destiny and the American West," an installation by Robert Hirsch (who was director from 1993 to '99), uses still photographic images from his extensive archival collection from pop culture, art and historical sources. Each image is rolled and placed inside a jar, with the jars - some 850 of them - then arranged in groups throughout the gallery. With larger images of related subjects also on view, the installation adds up to a broad iconic look at American history and the American psyche.
Gail Nicholson (director from 1988 to '92) offers autobiographical works, made while coping with her mother's death in 1986. The color-copy series "Posing Eva May" combines textured backgrounds with archival photos.
"When I did these family-oriented works, I was still learning," she said. "The distance I felt came out in my art through the manipulating and using of materials in different ways."
Gary Nickard, director from 1982 to '88, is represented by earlier work, such as "Leviathan," a silver gelatin print that he says was made by "recontextualizing X-ray defractions."
"The intersection of science, philosophy and art interests me," Nickard said. "One of my goals is to challenge ideas of accepted common sense."
The 30 by 30-inch color pieces by Biff Henrich, who was co-director from 1978 to '80 and director from 1980 to '82), shot at Tifft Farm, show the contrast between nature and the artifice of "civilization."
"In both the summer and winter views," Henrich said. "You can see evidence that it is not a pure, natural landscape. I print them on watercolor paper and show them without glass in the frame. . . . Glass adds an extra layer, a mirror, that people need to read through."
Ken Pelka (co-director from 1978 to '80) identifies with his subjects from 1978's "Portrait of Buffalo" series. "In these neighborhood shops, no one ever said "no' to having their picture taken," he recalled. "The process, which supposedly was about documenting others, became about documenting myself."
"Garden Series," by Tom Damrauer (co-director, 1979 to '80), presents verdant scenes with fleeting glimpses of figures. They are calculatingly pieced together, as if to remind the viewer that it is the artist who is in charge of what is being shown and what is not.
The other video work in the show belongs to Kathy High (co-director, 1980). "Death Poses," an amusing series of domestic vignettes (bathtub, dining room), features a woman lying perfectly still, as if dead. In several of the scenarios, which linger for at least 20 seconds, a cat or dog benignly walks into the scene.
Kevin Noble's (director, 1978) earlier works, printed on "plastic-looking" film paper, show his combined regard for presentation and subject matter. "The images are not the real thing," he explained. "They can function as metaphors."
His straight-ahead "Fenian Ram" highlights the object itself, which in this case, is an early submarine. "My interest here," he said, "is in political issues such as occupation and resistance."
Photos by Pierce Kamke (director, 1977) - unframed, blurred images of a romping German shepherd - are there to support his view that "there is no reality."
|CAGE: A FILMIC CIRCUS ON METAPHORS ON VISION
By Lawrence Brose, 2005
Of his stereoscopic pieces, Kamke said: "When a person looks through the binoculars, one eye sees one thing, and the other sees something else. Then each person's brain processes it into something completely different."
Robert Muffoletto, who founded CEPA and was its first director from 1973 to 1977, showed small silver, black-and-white gelatin prints. Several highlight fauna with close-cropped focus again bringing reality into question, while a more gritty print suggests the isolation that a city can induce.
At the opening last Saturday night, eight out of the 11 artist/directors were there to celebrate CEPA's 30th anniversary and reaffirm the notion that artist-run institutions can work for the long run.