The University of Maine Museum of Art, located at 40 Harlow Street in downtown Bangor, opens four new exhibitions in October. UMMA, which is open Monday-Saturday from 10 am-5 pm, brings innovative contemporary art exhibitions to the region and presents approximately 12 original exhibitions each year. UMMA’s summer exhibitions will open to the public on October 3 and run through January 3, 2015. Admission to the Museum of Art is free in 2014 thanks to the generosity of Penobscot Financial Advisors.
OUT OF NOWHERE: JOHN GALLAGHER PAINTINGS 1996-2014
“Standing Moment” by John Gallagher
Maine-based painter John Gallagher exhibits a number of recent abstract paintings, as well as several early pieces. The artist’s acrylic on paper compositions possess an unharnessed, gestural energy that can be associated with the Abstract Expressionists —specifically Willem de Kooning canvases and Jackson Pollock’s early paintings. Gallagher’s paintings are rooted in process; the spontaneity of his mark-making and subsequent revisions unite with an unbridled exploration of the material quality of paint. The surface of each work combines transparent paint washes with areas that contain a dense buildup of manipulated paint. The changing environmental conditions viewed in and around the artist’s studio, situated along Maine’s coast, provide a boundless source of inspiration for these compositions. Gallagher states, “The constant, unrelenting surround of woods and ocean, of rocks and fields, suggests a continuum, a pulse that runs through everything and seems to imbue objects and forms with a sense of mystery and meaning.”
THE LITTLE FOOLS: ROZ LEIBOWITZ
“Paul Turned” by Roz Leibowitz
A collection of vintage dolls is the subject of New York City-based artist Roz Leibowitz’s black and white photographs. Instead of a variety of sweet and frilly dolls, the cast of characters that inhabit these images are a strange bunch—some have cracked heads, while others are sadly misshapen. Leibowitz’s idiosyncratic lot of weathered and often broken dolls is found in flea markets, thrift stores and online auctions; others are the artist’s hand-made creations. While some photographs are absurd and humorous, they more often evoke dark, eerie associations. Leibowitz’s images lead us into unfamiliar territory—as if in the darkness of night these dolls awaken to live out their own eccentric tales. These sensations are heightened by the artist’s use of selective focus, peculiar settings, camera angles, and the contorted poses of the dolls. The unsettling feeling evoked by some of Leibowitz’s images brings to mind Hans Bellmer (1902-1975) and Morton Bartlett’s (1909-1992) disconcerting photographs of dolls. A focal point of the exhibition is an installation of over 80 gelatin silver prints presented in eclectic vintage frames and arranged randomly over two walls.
STARING AT THE SUN WITH A PENNY IN MY POCKET: MATT PHILLIPS
“Yundler” by Matt Phillips
At first glance, Brooklyn-based Matt Phillips’ paintings may appear to be rooted solely in rigid formal abstraction. But in reality the works are deceptively complex, each containing varied and richly worked surfaces. For example, in “Last Love Song” an imprecisely drawn X divides the composition into four quadrants. A gestural slashing X further sub-divides each section. Within these shapes are subtle shifts of thinly applied color achieved through intimate brushwork. Rather than by pre-determined formula, the paintings emerge through improvisation and revision. While Phillips acknowledges an obvious connection to geometric abstraction, other influences are evident such as pattern, textiles, folk art, still life painting, and quilts. “I was affected by seeing the quilts of Gee’s Bend.” says the artist. Phillips’ paintings, like the Gee’s Bend quilts, possess a beauty, rhythm and soul because their construction does not conform to unbending rules—every detail isn’t carefully measured. “A quiet humanity permeates the surfaces of my paintings and is contained within images that initially appear rational, calculated and resolved.” says Phillips. Through color relationships and arrangement of simple shapes, he has produced paintings that are at times quirky and playful, and in other instances tranquil and ordered.
TALES FROM THE TURNPIKE: SUZANNE LAURA KAMMIN
“A Northern Zone” by Suzanne Laura Kammin
In Suzanne Laura Kammin’s abstract oil on panel paintings, hard-edged forms unite with transparent gestural brushwork. In the works featured at UMMA, the artist has employed a dynamic pallette ranging from vibrant reds and saturated yellows to an assortment of cool blues. Kammin states that she contrasts “smooth, minimal shapes of pure color against distressed and improvisatory passages to create a sense of expansiveness, magic and mystery.”
The layered lines that wind through the artist’s compositions are an essential unifying device and invite multiple associations. The lines may reference a maze of bent conduit containing essential utilities to keep us illuminated and connected or, as alluded to in the exhibition title, a system of concrete roadways and raised exit ramps that crisscross the urban landscape. For Kammin, the works “serve as a metaphor for a spiritual and psychological journey of growth and transformation.”