Sunday, November 18, 2012

Where the Sidewalk Ends @ AR4T

Last night, I went to the opening reception for "Where the Sidewalk Ends" at AR4T Gallery in Laguna Beach, curated by my friend Chantal DeFelice.  It was an impressive show, both in the quality of the work, and the attention to detail, which gave it a lovely cohesiveness.


Chantal's pieces feature old buildings painted in graphic style on wood.  The signs on the buildings, for places like "Little City Meats" and "Lil's Beauty Salon" give personality and character to the structures, which, combined with the imperfect lines, suggest the personality of the inhabitants.  There is a nostalgic charm and beauty to these places.






This theme of the personality of buildings is continued in Liz Brizzi's angular and stark buildings, which have a more brooding, contemplative tone.





My favorite part of the exhibit was a projected video showing various films shot by Chantal in and around her hometown of San Clemente.  The subject of the films is the minutiae of nature: a close-up of a butterfly emerging from a cocoon in her garden, bees buzzing around a piece of honeycomb, the tiny sea creatures (crabs, anemones, mollusks) who inhabit the tide pools of San Clemente beach.  These creatures, which are often tiny, are blown up to gigantic proportions, allowing us to see the beauty we might normally miss, or overlook, when we visit the beach, or even a garden.  Chantal's work invites us to look closer and see the strangeness of reality, and mollusks are particularly strange.




This whimsical fascination with nature ties into the paintings by Yevgeniva Mikhailik, which convey something of the child-like wonder (and terror) of the poems of Shel Silverstein, whose book Where the Sidewalk Ends was the inspiration for the show title.  Mikhailik's pieces personify nature into mythic characters, like a tempest monster, who is featured tearing the roof off a tiny house, a violent scene that is given pathos byYevgeniva's tenderly-rendered style.  Her work, like Chantal's, seems interested in the intersection of the man-made and the natural.



Sophie Kipner's wooden painted characters echo this concern.  Animals like bears and rabbits are lovingly rendered wearing human clothing, like a CBGB t-shirt, a vintage dress, or a pair of brown slacks.  Many of Kipner's pieces have a narrative quality.  The pieces seem to tell stories.  



Incidentally, Sophie Kipner is also a writer, and she read one of her short stories called "The Gymnast" which is set to be published next year.


Nancy Chiu's paintings also show this narrative theme.  A painting of a young girl, wearing a mask, walking through a forest of trees with eyes evokes a mysterious, unspoken fairy tale.


According to curator Chantal DeFelice, "All of the artworks in this show stand gorgeously on their own, but I am particularly excited to experience them as a whole. I have approached curating the show as I would a fabulous party, considering additions of sounds and tastes to be integral to the overall enjoyment of the guests."








The show runs through December 22, and is definitely worth checking out.  Kudos, Chantal and friends on a thoughtful and fun show.

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