UMaine Museum of Art opens Summer Exhibitions

Richard Haden, “Panhandler, 2010” Carved poplar and oak, enamel and epoxy paints

UMaine Museum of Art in Bangor opens its Summer Exhibitions Friday, June 22 with four exciting shows. Admission to the Museum is free, the public is cordially invited, and the show runs through September 15.

“We are pleased to open four distinct summer exhibitions that are sure to delight our visitors,” says museum director George Kinghorn. “Richard Haden’s hyper-realist wood sculptures of weathered, discarded items offers a dramatic surprise for the viewer as the materials and the artist’s process is revealed. We are fortunate to present a large-scale exhibition of over 90 works by painter Arnold Mesches that provides a glimpse into his studio practice from 1996-2012. In addition, Los-Angeles-based Installation artist Chris Natrop has created a stunning environment in our Zillman Gallery of cut-paper and other reflective materials. We are also delighted to present an exhibition titled ‘Fresh Perspectives,’ which was organized by our inaugural class of the Museum’s Young Curators program.”

Richard Haden: Carved Signs

To fully experience Richard Haden’s art, one must take a moment to suspend disbelief. It is difficult to grasp that the artist’s hyper-realist sculptures depicting urban discards are carved out of laminated blocks of mahogany and poplar. The sculptures are copies (with various artist edits) of real found objects. Dented and weathered objects such as a creased trash can lid, a punctured metal briefcase, deteriorating cardboard boxes and a corroded fire extinguisher reveal a history of use and trauma. Salvaged ready-mades are re-contextualized and given a new life along with new possibilities of meaning. Haden’s wooden sculptures are meticulously painted with oils, enamel and lacquer in order to achieve the heightened sense of illusion. In the wall-based piece Panhandler, the artist has strikingly replicated the metal surfaces and glossy, colored handle of a battered industrial dustpan.

Upon first glance, the artist’s intricate process is not clearly revealed. Haden combines traditional carving techniques with methods and tools he has developed to map out and execute the working compositions. To visualize the various depths of the carved areas, a series of markings and a grid system, similar to topographical maps, are drawn first on the model and then transferred to the wood. The varied detritus, often collected by Haden along streets or in urban lots, is riddled with imperfections that inspire the artist, especially those objects possessing the potential for creating new visual rhetoric. It is through these sculptures that Haden brings to light issues of originality, artifice, waste, decay and the disposable nature of contemporary culture.

Arnold Mesches: A Minispective

Arnold Mesches turns 89 this year. The artist’s unwavering work ethic has yielded a powerful collection of paintings imbued with vitality, fervor and prophetic vision. Mesches has created an abundance of large-scale paintings throughout his extensive career and also, with the same intensity, produced scores of small works related to each distinct series. This exhibition focuses on these small paintings, drawings and collages and provides a unique glimpse into Mesches’s artistic practice from 1996 to 2012. The exhibition includes works from numerous series including Echoes, It’s A Circus, Coming Attractions, Paint and his most recent Shock and Awe paintings from 2011-12.

With a critical eye, Mesches explores the darker issues of life and the complexities of a world in turmoil. Political upheavals, protests, corporate greed, historical events and human rights injustices make their way into his enigmatic narratives that are, at times, infused with elements of his personal history. Mesches states that his paintings are “a summation of the collected views on the world’s madness and inconsistencies.” The root of Mesches’s criticism of the establishment and the ire of his commentary is clear. He was followed by the FBI from 1945 until 1972. An informant ridiculously declared that he “must be a communist” because his attire of blue jeans and paint splattered T-shirts confirmed that he “dressed like a communist.” The pages from the artist’s FBI report were made into mixed media collages as part of his THE FBI FILES series. An exhibition of these works originated at the Museum of Modern Art’s PS1 and then toured venues nationwide. The UMMA exhibition features several works from that acclaimed series along with over 80 other paintings.

Chris Natrop: Lily Ponder

Los Angeles-based installation artist Chris Natrop transforms the Zillman Gallery into a mesmerizing environment of gleaming free-form cutouts created from mirrored Plexiglas and acid-cut brass. His wall-based Duplex Mirror Rush is composed of multiple elements of intricately shaped mirrors installed in the corner of the gallery. The silhouette shapes, which are derived from the artist’s original large-cut paper compositions, are digitally altered, reformed and laser cut using a computer numerical control (CNC) device. The 90 degree angle of the two walls bisects the image. The bilateral symmetry of the composition reads like an enlarged and luminous Rorschach inkblot of ambiguous and beautiful lace-like patterns.

In much of his work, Natrop uses a utility knife to spontaneously cut away at large sheets of paper to create forms that reference plants and hanging vegetation. His compositions reflect an on-going fascination with the intricacies of natural forms encountered in his direct surroundings. Natrop’s cut paper drawings are often suspended from the ceiling. In this new installation, created specifically for UMMA, colored lights cast a field of subtle hues across the hanging paper forms that reference calla lilies intertwined with vine-like tendrils. In Lily Ponder, Natrop creates a fictionalized perception of place that immerses the viewer in an ethereal landscape of abstract flora juxtaposed with elements of refracted and reflected light.

“These summer exhibitions underscore the Museum’s commitment to bringing a diverse series of contemporary art exhibitions to Maine. It is rewarding to introduce the community these artists who are actively contributing to the dialog surrounding contemporary art,” adds Kinghorn.

The museum is open Monday through Saturday from 10 – 5 p.m. For more information, call 561-3350 or visit umma.umaine.edu.