Or maybe it’s a five-fer… anyhow, until October 1, visitors to River House Arts in Toledo’s Secor Arts Building can see work by three young painters from Cleveland in the ground floor space, while on the building’s second floor a collection of intriguing objects by a young glass artist from Bowling Green State University lurk. As if that weren’t enough, some small nocturnal landscapes by yet another accomplished BGSU graduate occupy the gallery on floor 6. Any one of these shows is worth a trip to Toledo.
Portraiture is having a moment these days, especially among young Black artists who are busily inserting themselves into the contemporary art conversation through figurative painting. This small group show, Waking Dream, provides two current students and one recent B.F.A. from the Cleveland Institute of Art with space to examine the contradictions inherent in our societal ideas of beauty, race, gender and femininity.
Eruwesi Archer’s paintings aim to disorient and provoke, and they do. Verging on caricature, Archer’s acid toned, oversize subjects confront with us with questions and propositions and observations about the world as they find it.
Samantha Schneider (B.F.A. 2021) paints larger-than-life pictures of young women in exaggerated cinematic colors reminiscent of sci-fi movie stills, and Crystal Miller embellishes her neon-colored beauties with craft materials like yarn, rhinestones, beads and foam, evocations of not only of how a young Black woman looks, but how she feels.
British artist Theo Brooks (BGSU M.F.A. 2021) has created a collection of sculptural glass artworks that present an exotic past–or future– through ritual objects from the artist’s imagination that reference his Cypriot heritage.
On the sixth floor of the building, Amber Koprin (BGSU M.F.A. 2020) delivers some low key, voyeuristic thrills with her tiny, exquisite nocturnal views of deserted suburban scenes.
For more information about the artists and gallery hours, go here.
Paula Baldoni can hardly believe that the tenth birthday of her Toledo gallery, River House Arts, is coming up, but she’s ready to celebrate. “The ten years have flown by. If you had just asked me, I’d have said it was 5,” she says.
Baldoni recalls opening her first exhibition space in Perrysburg in 2009 in an unused portion of her photographer husband Bill Jordan’s studio. She opened the gallery because she observed that many Toledo artists with international reputations had no place to show their work locally. She says, “I knew that there were artists living in the area and working here, but who didn’t have a place to show their work. They were showing in Europe and Asia–everywhere but home.” She adds, “We thought that if we could make our mark during the worst part of the Great Recession, then maybe we had something.”
A decade later, River House Arts has found a new, more spacious venue in the historic Secor Building in downtown Toledo. Baldoni has expanded from her original main floor gallery to fill several new exhibition spaces in the newly renovated structure, filling those spaces with art from Toledo and beyond. And in 2020, Contemporary Art Toledo, a non-profit arts organization that she founded in partnership with Brian Carpenter, an artist and professor of art at University of Toledo, will open the doors to its new gallery for the first time. She gives ample credit for the expansion to building owner Jim Zaleski. “He did a lot of work on the new space–he’s been extremely generous. We would not be doing what we’re doing if it wasn’t for Jim Zaleski,” she says.
Reflecting on the past ten years, Baldoni describes herself as a hunter gatherer of artists’ private obsessions, which she then introduces to the larger Toledo arts audience. “There has to be a place to show cutting edge and experimental work. The more people become accustomed to seeing contemporary art, art that they don’t have to imagine having in their living rooms, the more they are open to other [new] ideas.”
Baldoni views the upcoming 10-year milestone at River House Arts as a birthday celebration for a ten-year-old child. The exhibit, entitled Cake, though it coincides with the anniversary, is not intended to be a dignified affair. It’s meant to be “a show of fun, light work (with possibly a dark side because we don’t know how to do it without having a dark side). It will be light with depth…much like a cake!” She promises clouds and butterflies, mixing bowls, rugs and plates in media from glass to painting to fiber and neon. Artists will include Joanna Manousis, Boryana Rusenova-Ina, Loraine Lynn, Alli Hoag, Madhurima Ganguly, Katy Richards, Crystal Phelps and more. Cake will be on view at River House Arts from Nov. 21 through January 19.
When asked about lessons learned from past experiences and plans for the future, Baldoni responds, “The trajectory of a gallery is the same as that of an artist–you have highs and lows, good times and bad times. We are really not that different, we have the same struggles. This is such a crazy business, and it’s not even a business, it’s a life.” She continues, ”I think I’ve hit my stride. I still have goals [for the future]. I want to continue to show work by emerging artists, promoting them to a broader audience. As we move forward one of the opportunities we’re looking at for artists is working more with businesses, both in terms of bringing corporate people in to see our collection and to see the shows we have here and also introducing artwork to go to their locations. She finishes, “I’m still committed to glass [as a medium] and to showing glass work that we don’t normally see, like the work we recently showed in JB Squared, by Brooklyn glass artists Jane Bruce and John Brekke.”
But in the future, she adds, “There must also be cake!”
I recently reviewed Nature Morte by conceptual glass artist Joanna Manousis for the Toledo City Paper. The exhibit is on view until June 17th at River House Arts in Toledo. This is the artist’s largest exhibition to date and includes pieces made during her residencies at The Toledo Museum of Art in January, 2017 and Alfred University in March, 2017. Read more here
When someone says “art glass” do you think immediately of the colorful, often whimsical and crowd-pleasing objects that are staples of art fairs and craft festivals? Well, think again.
HUSH.ex, a group show of four artists from Philadelphia’s Tyler School of Art, on view until November 4 at River House Gallery in Toledo, will re-order your preconceptions of what glass as art can be and do.
Working within a narrow range of colors and a broad array of glass types, Megan Biddle, Amber Cowan, Jessica Jane Julius and Sharyn O’Mara have filled the gallery with a collection of visually and conceptually challenging work that refuses the flashy over-stimulation of the digital age. The easy appeal, saturated colors and fluid shapes of conventional art glass have been replaced by a more austere vision that is expressive of solitude and silence. The artworks are predominately black, white and shades in between; the types of glass include production milk glass, airport grade glass reflector beads, found and second-life glass and more. The artists heat, crack, fuse, burn and pour their way to artworks that push the medium of art glass well beyond its previous aesthetic borders.
Jessica Jane Julius’s Static Puddles are made by pouring black matte glass over shards of canework. The story of their production is evident in the jagged centers of black and white surrounded by the gloppy shape of each piece, but that is secondary to the lyrical appeal of these weightless black blooms. In another instance of prosaic material transcended by the poetic, Julius has applied airport grade glass reflector beads suspended in paint on four panels to create a wavy, translucent river that flows across the wall of the gallery. The title of the piece is Absorption.
Recycled, up-cycled and second-life glass provides the raw material for the works of Amber Cowan. Her installation of commonly recognizable milk glass objects, heated and deformed, transforms these everyday vessels into ghostly memorials to their humble use. In Tall Vase with Thorny Vines, Cowan has heated a production vase, pierced it and collaged ceramic plants into it, shaping it into a matte white still life that is both familiar and surreal.
The work of Megan Biddle focuses on process-driven work that emphasizes the unique qualities of materials and their response to outside forces such as time, growth, erosion, breakage. (In addition to her glass work, she produces installation, sculpture, drawing and video.) Her Further for Now series examines the way that layers of cracked glass can create a kind of line drawing on a hazy, semi-transparent field.
Dog hair, optical fiber and typewriter tape are the eccentric components that characterize the work of Sharyn O’Mara. Particularly prominent in this exhibit are her carbon burn-out “drawings” on glass. These hair-on-glass process pieces are abstract, yet often seem to reference seed pods or plants. They have an ethereal quality, as if they might disappear into thin air, blown away by fugitive winds.
The glass art that is featured in HUSH.ex is neither easy nor pretty nor decorative, but satisfies on a deeper level. These four artists demonstrate that there are many unexplored avenues for discovery in this medium that is so central to the regional aesthetic. They point the way to a creative trajectory in art glass that is cerebral, experimental and conceptually rigorous.
HUSH.ex is the second in a series of museum-quality exhibits organized by Contemporary Art Toledo, a collaborative partnership of gallerist Paula Baldoni of River House Gallery with Brian Carpenter, Gallery Director at the University of Toledo. (Their first exhibit was Beautiful Pig). The goal of CA+ is to provide a showcase in the Toledo area for provocative and groundbreaking contemporary artwork by nationally known and regional artists.
For more information about HUSH.ex and River House Gallery hours go here
The Northwest Ohio (NowOH) Community Art Exhibition is looking for Ohio artists to participate in its annual comprehensive survey of regional artwork to be held July 15 – July 30, at the Fine Arts Center Galleries of Bowling Green State University, Bowling Green OH 43403. NowOH supports regional artists by providing a yearly opportunity to display work in a professional gallery setting. Ohio artists living in the following Ohio counties are eligible to participate: Defiance, Erie, Fulton, Hancock, Henry, Lucas, Ottawa, Paulding, Sandusky, Seneca, Williams and Wood. The exhibition is open to work in a variety of media with awards presented in several categories.
The juror for this year’s NowOH exhibit is Detroit-based writer, activist, photographer and multimedia artist Sarah Rose Sharp. Sharp writes about art and culture for Art in America, Hyperallergic, FlashArt, Knight Arts, and others. In 2015, she was named a Kresge Literary Arts Fellow for Arts Criticism and was a 2016 participant in the Art Writer’s Grant Mentorship Program.
All work submitted that meets the requirements in the Prospectus will be included in the show.
There is a small entry fee of $15 for artists 16-18, $30 for artists 19 and up.
Blown, cast, cut, colored or clear, opaque or translucent, artworks made from glass have a seductive quality that is hard to resist. Hot Spot: Contemporary Glass from Private Collections, marks the tenth anniversary of the Toledo Museum of Art’s Glass Pavilion. The exhibit, on view now through September 18, includes more than 80 works, many of which are promised gifts to the museum.
Glass, in industry and in art, has a particularly symbiotic relationship with Toledo. When Edward Drummond Libbey moved his family-owned business, New England Glass Works, from Massachusetts to Ohio in 1888, he brought the technical expertise that would make Toledo a center for manufactured glass, first as tableware and then as a producer of electric lights, automobile parts and building materials. Libbey was also one of the co-founders in 1901 of the Toledo Museum of Art and its most important benefactor. Along with initial funds donated for building the museum, Libbey remained a major donor until his death in 1925, after which Florence Scott Libbey continued to give generously to the museum. In 1962, The museum allowed a glass studio to be built in a garage on the museum grounds and with expert advice from glass makers at Libbey-Owens-Ford, the studio glass movement was born. In 1969, the Toledo Museum of Art became the first museum ever to create a glass studio to train artists in the use of glass as a medium. In 2006, the Glass Pavilion, housing the glass studio and the museum’s extensive glass collection, was built.
From my walk through Hot Spot, it became clear to me that glass is a protean medium, hard to pin down or to quantify. Some pieces are very focused on the impressive craft involved (Mantidi Cruising by Emanuel Toffalo), others are more conceptual in ambition (Point of View by Christopher Ries). One of the great challenges in the installation is to create a sense of logic and organization from objects disparate in color, translucency, method, and most of all, in intent. The curator has here chosen to group the artworks by category for clarification (Built Environment, Natural World, Human Figure and the like) but it seemed to me that the objects could have just as easily been organized by color, type of glass technique employed or source of the piece (I found I liked the works collected by Margy and Scott Trumbull the most).
The general effect of the exhibit is a bit diffuse. The space itself has a kind of unfocused quality due to the wall-less, all-window architecture and the variously translucent or transparent qualities of much of the work. I seemed to be looking through things rather than at them much of the time. But in spite of these distractions, I liked some of the individual pieces very much. In particular I was delighted to find a large piece by Steffen Dam, my favorite glass artist of all time. His hybrid blown and hot-worked glass compositions are a magical evocation of the natural world, at once matter-of -fact and ethereal. I also liked Light In by Ann Wolff, a cast glass piece which seemed to illustrate a body in motion over time.
Some of the pieces were a bit too decorative to please and gave off a whiff of art fair whimsy, but on the whole this is an impressive survey of fine art in a medium much beloved in the Glass City.