FINDING THE SPACES IN BETWEEN
“Constructive Tendencies” by Bobby Coleman and Ben Piwowar
The Rice Gallery at McDaniel College has ended its fall series for 2014 with a dynamic display of the abstract, the sculptural, and the invasive. “Constructive Tendencies,” an exhibition featuring works by two Baltimore based artists, Bobby Coleman and Ben Piwowar, explores themes of unity and the unfinished. Bobby Coleman, the painter for this exhibition, has nine of his large pieces on display, hung around the walls of the gallery. Sharing space with Coleman’s work is Ben Piwowar’s sculptural pieces that take on 2D and 3D forms and mark making, as they work their way around the gallery, winding in and out of paintings, walls, and visitors. Throughout the gallery space, one finds hidden gems of art– small pencil marks, nails in understated places, pieces hanging high above eyelevel, small pieces bolted to the floor. These are perilous, delicate sculptures, but the audience is encouraged to swarm them. The pieces are often lost underfoot until you stand next to them, and this closeness swallows you instead. The gallery is enveloping, and to step into the exhibition is to enter a personal, private space that is suddenly turned overt.
Coleman’s work features instances of dripping, thick paint, which are given a sense of control as they are darkly outlined. The works share a similar color spectrum, a collection of muted tropical colors, such as dull turquoise, pale yellow, grey-toned lavender. The compositions are abstract, yet not haphazard. Within them, one can find a vague painterly symmetry.
The geometry found in these paintings provides order, similar to an urban environment, through grids, industrial forms, and layers. These layers are carefully woven together to accomplish a painting that is not quite finished. In Bricks and Portals, the viewer’s eye is led on a journey around the perimeter of the piece, spiraling and arching with the alluring shapes. Within the muted tones and preliminary mark making found not only in the paintings, but in the sculptures as well, one finds a sense of temporary existence. This exhibition is a temporary environment for both the art and the audience, and the works reflect this temporal nature with their anti-heroic, unfinished characteristics.
Piwowar suggests that the very act of incorporating the gallery space into his sculptural installations is a form of detourned artwork, wherein he reinterprets the pre-existing work of the gallery’s architecture to give a wholly new and unique piece, one that will never exist quite the same way once it has left the gallery. Piwowar’s sculpture also plays with Coleman’s paintings, and the viewer is left with an unclear understanding of where the paintings stop, where the sculptures begin, and where the viewer exists between the two. These sculptures, made from common materials, are vastly understated, yet they work beautifully with their 2D counterparts in interacting with the viewer and engaging the audience on a personal level.
The biggest detriment to this show was the gallery space itself. The neoclassical, petite atmosphere clashed with works that required a more empty space in which to thrive. The two artists of this exhibition certainly worked to their best efforts to convey their intended vision, but the gallery all but required the addition of walls to block out the delicate and un-industrial architecture of the Rice Gallery. Nevertheless, the show worked in its habitat, transforming the pristine space into something more true to the artists’ roots.
–– Katherine Stein, 28 November 2014