Thursday, November 24, 2011

REVIEW: Delia Robinson at Flynndog in Burlington

by Janet Van Fleet

One of the things I love about the Flynndog (on Flynn Avenue in Burlington’s South End Arts District) is that Bren Alvarez, who curates the space, seems to have an impulse to combine the presentation of visual arts with music, dance, literature, and social issues. The current show is an example of this inclination. The exhibition offers Delia Robinson’s illustrations of AlphaBetaBestiario, a new collection of poetry by Antonello Borra (originally written in Italian), translated by Blossom S. Kirschenbaum. The reading by Borra at the opening reception on November 4 was dedicated to Kirschenbaum, who was known to be seriously ill, and in fact died that same night (see obituary).

Delia Robinson’s illustrations, displayed down the length of one long wall at the gallery, were originally hand-drawn and painted, then scanned and digitally altered, and finally printed in pigment-based inks on heavyweight archival paper. The exhibit is beautifully mounted, with each of the illustrations (a framed print, one of a Limited Edition print run of only 10) mounted next to a book open to the poem being illustrated. The poems appear in both the original Italian and a facing page with the English translation. The poet’s elegant signature races across the bottom of the black mounting board under each book.

It’s a good thing that the framed prints are mounted with the books, since the illustrations as they are printed in the book are extremely disappointing – a mushy, muddy grey, lacking the punch and contrast of the images as they appear in the limited run prints. There must be a way of avoiding this problem. Perhaps a coated stock (though possibly more expensive) might hold the image better?

On the opposite wall of the gallery are Robinson’s paintings, many of which are painted and/or mounted on insulation foamboard that is covered with fabric or paper and carved into shapes that suggest architectural finials.

This body of work is called Captive. It includes three large puppet-theater pieces with multiple holes where puppets might appear (but don’t, in this exhibit), as well as paintings with a variety of sizes and subjects.

A wonderful piece that demonstrates Robinson’s highly-tuned sense of humor is Professor in the Ivory Tower. (He finds the artifact needed to complete his history of the potato masher). The Professor is depicted in front of a soaring and packed bookshelf, with wisps of clouds passing overhead, clearly delighted by adding the missing link to his historic collection.

Another fine example of narrative painting is Blame it on the Yellow Car, a larger piece showing front and center what looks like the artist herself, with her heart on her sleeve. There is much going on in this piece, and it’s fun to imagine scenarios in which the yellow car (and the other characters in the painting) might figure.

This exhibit will run through December 29, 2011 and, in Flynndog fashion, there will be another literary event on December 2 at 7:00, with Antonello Borra, Greg Delanty, Tina Escaja, Barbara Krohn, and Carmen Pont reading from their work in the original languages in which they were written and in English translation , all against the backdrop of Delia Robinson's paintings and drawings.

Images: photos of Antonello Borra and detail of book by Sandra Sonntag. Remainder by Janet Van Fleet