Thursday, January 17, 2013

BRATTLEBORO: A Review of "3 Cases and a Carry-on"

"3 Cases and a Carry-On"
Dianich Gallery
December 21-29, 2012

A Review by Arlene Distler

On December 18, 2013, two very large duffel bags on wheels made their way to Heathrow airport for a trip "across the pond." One weighed the maximum, the other was a few pounds overweight, but both got by baggage check-in thanks to a distracted clerk. The bags were filled with paintings and other art works padded with bubble wrap and clothing packed for the cold weather. This was not a heist.

The artwork making its way to its ultimate destination – the Catherine Dianich Gallery, Brattleboro, Vt.  – was the collective contribution of 16 artists based in London, UK, who have formed "The Chelsea Collective," for the Chelsea College of Art where all the artists met as graduate students a few years back.

The show was mounted for exhibition in Brattleboro from December 21 through the 29th. Then it was all packed up again and carted back to the UK.

The show, called, logically enough, "3 Cases and a Carry-on," (who knew it could all fit into 2 cases!) is slated to travel to the hometowns of all the artists involved. Besides several towns in England, that also means a trip Portugal, S. Korea, China, Poland, and back to the United States in Chicago and San Francisco.

Black and Blue, by Liz Elton, giclée print
The Brattleboro show featured an amazing range of artistic pursuits. So many different directions in fact, it was almost a sampling of how many ways there are to be an artist in today's very diverse art world. Work ranged from installation (Sarah Pager's Breathing Boxes, two large boxes with an aluminum membrane that mechanically inhales and exhales, all the while exuding a faint sigh) to oil paint on board (Eun Sook Choi's mysterious a sheet of paper) and from the quirky sculptures of Lana Locke's bronze cast and painted banana to the laser-cut paper "shadow box" ("Wartime Pastorale") by Aaron Distler.

Wartime Pastorale by Aaron Distler, laser-cut paper

Besides the above mentioned works, among my personal favorites were Maria Sasetti's graphite drawings divided into tile-size squares, and Will Teather's series of narrative acrylic paintings that come with their own newspaper front-page story.

The Remarkable Disappearing Maudeline Spacks series by Will Teather, acrylic on canvas 

An ambitious undertaking, the artists have all pledged new work for each show. The Lisbon show is planned to be an all-performance art event, thanks to the woman who will be its host, Isabel Pina Ferreira, whose work in Brattleboro was a series of six elegant collages of varying geometric shapes.

Malgorzata Kosak's piece in Brattleboro involved listening to a story on headphones with instructions on scratching a British lottery ticket (there were 20 provided), and hearing the "why and wherefore," having to do with a Gypsy fortune-teller telling her a windfall was coming her way but she would not have a hand in it. (Ms. Kosak almost made back what she spent on the tickets). It was absolutely delightful to be sitting in the quiet of the gallery and suddenly hear a listener come out with a hearty chuckle.

The slate of artists also included: Joe Race (UK), Rebecca Byrne (USA), Mu Tian (China), Jeeti Singh (USA), Anne-Marie James (UK), and Ian Royce Warner (UK).

The enterprise is the idea of Aaron Distler (yes, we are related) and Will Teather whose intention for the show was to literally "bring it all back home," and by so doing acknowledge the roots of each artist's work. It would also be a way to get the work out of the insularity of the urban art world, to "scatter the seeds" and embrace the unknowable consequences. It would seem to be all about cross-fertilization. Inevitably it is also an exercise in creative problem-solving and logistics. And finally, why wait for elusive fame and fortune before having your work travel abroad? It is the idea of "self-publishing" carried to extreme and into the realm of visual arts.

In the process, it has given Brattleboro, a place we like to think of as a creative haven itself, a breath of creative fresh air and a hit of big-world esthetics.

Arlene Distler writes on the arts for local and regional publications. She is based in Brattleboro, Vt.