Exhibition Review: Salt Lake City
Through the Natural & the Artificial
Linnie Brown's Landmarks @ Access II
by Ehren Clark
Entering Art Access's Access II Gallery, where Linnie Brown's Landmarks: Recent Works is on display through April 13th, one might ask, "Has Picasso gone crazy?" No, Picasso has not gone mad, but Linnie Brown has lucidly painted -- constructed (as cubist works are) -- a series of abstract works which are a provocative glance at a juxtaposition of two very different elements of the contemporary environment: the natural and the artificial.
How, one might ask, is this aim unique, as much of the art of today questions this contemporary landscape? What makes this work unique amongst the rest? What is significant about Brown's work is her masterful use of pure abstraction to convey a theme in which may be read as an intuitive and inventive insight into what she states is a "struggle to find the self into two circumstances and balance them out?" Brown's is a strategically articulated cycle of abstracted works using cubist-like shapes, contours, lines, color and light. Like the works of Mondrian or Albers, these works have a classical sense of unity and balance; and while each is particularly unique amongst the rest, the exhibition achieves an overall unity. Though her palette is subdued -- earth tones primarily, and even a grisaille -- they are equally balanced, ordered and cohesive in form and color; and in addition to this, her contemporary meaning is uniquely conveyed.
Brown's affinity with pure abstraction ends here. Often when faced with a Motherwell or a Still, one is open to free association, an open dialogue between the painter and viewer, but not so with Brown. Hidden amongst these paintings there is an intended, distinct association, which the viewer may perceive and comprehend while contemplating Brown's work. Brown adopts many modernist image-making techniques in her work but uses them for her own end. Like Picasso, she incorporates collage and elements of figuration. And like Rauschenberg she inserts “found elements” but without his aim at transforming rubbish into fine art. No, Brown assimilates similar practices, yet with a specific aim in mind. Brown has something poignant to say about the world in which we live through her paintings, as purely abstracted as they might seem. Through the nature of her constructs, she is attempting to "balance natural and man made imagery," she states.
This distinction is not blatant, but with careful scrutiny one may arrive at the full impact of what Brown is aiming towards. Incorporating into her constructions elements that are themselves abstracted, Brown addresses her dialogue. First, Brown intersperses into specific works the artificial collage elements. Maps, representing the very elements of the human-made landscape, make a distinct commentary on the artificially contrived demographics of modern society: How do people, societies, and groups meet, intersect, unite, come together, even separate? This aspect of her incorporated work navigates the segmented spaces upon which all reside, regardless of nationality, race or other distinctions. These cultural and societal designators communicate with her painterly forms into which they are incorporated -- a network which is harmonious. Also incorporated into her works are fragments of newspapers -- that which informs, empowers, provokes, frustrates, and activates the reader (including the reader of her abstractions). They seem almost imperceptible to her network of articulated shapes, yet they are the driving force.
An organic element is the counter-balance in other pieces. These fecund elements, which creep in amongst the abstracted features of the painting, are not readily apparent, isolated as they are amongst the distinction between the artificial and human made. Abstracted elements -- organic forms of leaves, branches, twigs -- speak of a world without human intervention, a world of the natural. Brown does not include the artificial and the natural in one piece. The natural and the artificial are individualized in separate works, yet, in the exhibition space the artist allows each to speak alone as well as contrast each other. As a whole, as a cycle, the works achieve their aim. Brown is not attempting to dictate, contradict or conflict; as the works are unified as a whole, each unique and of itself, Brown's is a positive statement on the management of the two elements as they exist in the whole of her work and as a representation of our world.
Such a statement is accomplished in the unity of the cycle. As the homogeneity continues throughout, Brown has made reference to the two habitations co-existing. Yet her statement is not an arbitrary one. How? As the artificial element fits into one, as the natural fits into one, and as both fit into a whole, so do Brown's themes fit into one and one into the cycle of the whole. In the exhibition's unity, Brown has demonstrated how the human-made and the artificial may fit together. The success of Landmarks is due to Brown's ability to mirror her thematic concerns with her visual explorations. The natural and the artificial both are an extension of her abstractions that converge into a synthesis, resulting in an optimistic view of the world as a harmonious whole.
Like a freeway with its loops and interchanges, carrying with it the souls of those who ride it, Brown has hypothesized how the artificial and the natural may be as one.||
Chad Tolley, a University of Utah graduate who spent the last five years studying (M.F.A. University of Oregon) and working in Oregon, has recently returned to Salt Lake and is getting back into the community by teaching a printmaking class at Saltgrass Printmakers starting April 11. He will be teaching an etching process using the Press'N'Peel materials to add collage and photographic images. "I feel like by coming back to Salt Lake, I have re-connected with my own artistic center," Tolley says. "I am discovering that the work I am doing now, is what I was doing late in my undergraduate and early in my graduate career. "
Leia Bell @ Ken Sanders
by Mariah Mann Mellus
Leia Bell’s name has become synonymous with concert posters here in the Salt Lake area. Her work started popping up on the fliers, posters, and advertising for Salt Lake's most popular all ages venue, Kilby Court, over seven years ago. Her union with owner Phil Sherburne produced a perfect harmony, matching original prints to equally original bands.
Recently, Leia's work has received national recognition: as one of the top 30 artists under 30 in Printer's Magazine, and in a six-page spread in second edition of The Art of Modern Rock, which focuses on the art work created to inspire and promote rock and roll over the last 20 years.
Leia has stayed at the forefront of Salt Lake's art scene, participating in many group shows and print exchanges, along with selling inexpensive art keep sakes, like refrigerator magnets and original mono prints.
Even with all this notoriety, Leia is one of the most laid back, modest, accommodating artists I have ever worked with. I am honored to have the opportunity to report about Leia's latest show Perpetual Childhood, which opens at Ken Sanders on Aril 7th and remains on display until April 30th, with an artist reception April 20th to correspond with the monthly Gallery Stroll.
I sat down with Leia to get her perspective on the new show, and the direction she plans to take her work.
MMM: In your show Perpetual Childhood, how would you describe the theme and your recent works for it?
LB: The show features my one-of-a-kind works such as paintings and mono prints (rather than rock posters and art prints). For the event poster I created the design based on a photograph of myself at about 3 years old. Since I now have three little ones of my own, I feel like I am always trying to wrap my brain around that age, and remember what it was like so I can relate to my boys. I feel like I am in a state of perpetual childhood hence the name.
MMM: You recently had another little boy; how has being a mom affected your work, not just with time, but content and subjects?
LB: Five years ago, with no children and surrounded by the indie music scene, indie rockers themselves were my main focus as far as imagery for artwork. Now with less and less time to attend shows and parties, I am mostly around my kids. So my work has become either about them, or things that have to do with them (animals they love, toys, childlike things in general).
MMM: I understand you are having a show in Manchester, England in the fall? Which gallery, and how did they find out about and approach you?
LB: My show is at the Richard Goodall Gallery this September, and I am very excited about it. The Goodalls have been collecting my work since 2003 when they approached me at a poster convention (called Flatstock) in Austin, during SXSW. They buy multiples of every print I do for wholesale, and sell them in their gallery and their on-line store. They have a group of American poster artists they collect and they have brought a few over to the gallery for solo shows over the past couple of years, including Jermaine Rogers, Jay Ryan and Rob Jones.
MMM: Ken Sanders has been a big fan of yours, and you have done a few shows there; any thoughts on showing in this particular venue?
LB: I love having shows at Ken's store. It fits my work very well because as a print and poster artist, my work is about limited editions and books are the same way. People collect prints as they do books, where a first edition is the most valuable of both. I love the laid back atmosphere of having a show in a bookstore. The reception feels like a party among close friends rather than a fancy suit-and-tie affair. I think that it meshes with my style, which is fun, carefree, and holds to the idea that art is for the masses.
MMM: 15 Bytes is read by many artists; any words for fellow artists on self-promotion, and breaking out of Utah?
LB: Having a website nowadays is a top priority for artists. If you are talking to someone about your art, they immediately want to know your website address. It has become a near taboo not to have one. I don't know anything about web design, but I had an expert create a site for me that I can update myself daily, without knowing a lick of HTML code. I have an "add to cart" feature on prints, so people anywhere in the world can buy my posters. I also make refrigerator magnets of my posters, which is a great tool of self-promotion. Everywhere I go, in any city, people tell me they've seen one of my magnets on someone’s fridge at a party. I am also now looking into magazine ads. I'm trying to figure out a good niche market for my posters. I have thought about maybe music magazines or underground art magazines.
There is no doubt in my mind that you will be hearing and seeing Leia’s work in the future but for more information or to purchase Leia’s print’s online go to Leiabell.com. ||