Simple Complexities

And so now love
Rains down and so enriches some stiff case,
And strews a mind with precious metaphors,

And so the space
Of my still consciousness
Is full of gilded snow,

The which, no cat has eyes enough
To see the brightness of.

from Middle Aged by Ezra Pound

So we compose a goodbye to 2010 with something new. The whispered, complex, completeness of works by John Sideli, Jewel Rechsteiner (both new to us) and Stephen Benenson possess both a bittersweet familiarity and a stunning strangeness. Stripped down, removed from the systems in which they operate, things like leaves, bacteria, cells, and antique toys revolve in their own simple galaxies. Mysterious without their ordinary contexts the subjects/objects in the works of these artists speak in single, profound sentences.

Stephen Benenson
Stephen Benenson

Stephen Benenson has always been especially attuned to the capture of elusive things-- moments of strangeness, transition or grace in people-- and now in the same intense drawing style, he studies the moods and personalities of fallen oak leaves. Of note is the smudgy attack of Benenson's hand within the borders of his subject and the aggressive way the leaves bend and strike at the edges of the paper whose laws they never finally transgress. Despite airborne dramatic contortions these leaves carefully respect the whiteness that surrounds them, a bittersweet acceptance of the fall or float, which ever it may be. Like a 1930's film noir femme fatale, the oak leaf, in it's highly- shadowed, curvy glory, here prefers to be immortalized while poised on the brink of tragedy.

Jewel Rechsteiner, <i>Micro Drawing</i>
Jewel Rechsteiner, Micro Drawing

Absolutely come see Jewel Rechsteiner's tensely quiet and luminous drawings; they can only be appreciated in person. With a highly developed sense of composure she delineates faint but complex arrangements of grids, circles, arcs, circles enclosed in grids, and even microbial activity on paper and in the air. The resulting monochrome drawings link minute fragments of cellular life with intimate and reflective natural rhythms, and the architecture of space. At first understated, these drawings quickly exhibit a rigidity, at times even become prohibitive. They are deceptively lively; to Rechsteiner some of the drawings are like shards of cartoon character bacteria, their cacophony turned down low so that their scribbly silliness is only barely perceptible at close range. In Rechsteiner's own words, "(t)he methodology for my drawing reflects my own psychological understanding of how the body meets the world. A building or drawing is a thing that initiates, mediates, and facilitates engagement, and the potential of these things provide space for articulating problems of arrival, transience and spatial dwelling."

John Sideli, <i>Heavyweight</i>
John Sideli, Heavyweight

John Sideli sets about to engaging the familiar and the foreign with a measured playfulness. Sideli is fully ensconced in the world of antiques, he operates an antiques business in Wiscasset and has the pleasure of working in environment that feeds his art-making. The objects he chooses to incorporate into sculptures and tableaus include antique lettering, balls and other toys, and tools lovingly collected and selected and pondered and paired. The pieces are never merely 3-D pastiches or exhibitions of sentimentality, instead he manages to create sparse and elegant pieces. The really amazing feat is that Sideli never destroys his materials, (as in obliterating the original objects to arrive at a perfectly new abstraction), and yet they coagulate into very complete and unified pieces with their own vocabulary and symbolism. He creates good-natured and stunningly formalist pieces without relying on, but also not obscuring the inherent qualities of the original objects. Never cynical and rarely ironic, Sideli, like a sharply-hewn poet, instead uses puns and analogies to activate the relationships within his pieces. Sideli's capacity for originality, metaphor and humor is tempered by his veneration for craft, color, texture, and the inexorable presence of old things makes viewing his work a real treat.

-Celeste Parke

Simple Complexities will be on view from December 3 - 22nd.
A reception will be held Friday, December 3rd from 5-8pm.

Whitney Art Works is open Wednesday - Saturday, 12-6pm or by appointment.

© Whitney Art Works, All Rights Reserved. 45 York Street, Portland, Maine 04101 Voice: 207-780-0700

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