Witty visual ideas spill from UMass Lowell faculty show

08/02/2007
By Used with permission from the Lowell Sun Online.

By JOHN GREENWALD

Sun Correspondent

The Artist's Eye

College art department faculty shows are like a "de gustibus" dinner I once had in Paris, tiny tastes of everything the kitchen offered. So is the University of Massachusetts Lowell's "Art Department Faculty Exhibit 2002": a little of everything.

Hanna Melnyczuk's two untitled pieces got my attention, printed photos of heads from a Renaissance painting and a classical sculpture on layers of transparent fabric. Their gauzy appearance suggests faces trying to emerge from the past. I liked the idea, but there wasn't enough to hold me.

Stephen Mishol's painting, "Broadway Bounce," and drawing, "Inbound," though minimalist on the surface, kept drawing me in. In "Broadway," he paints a white and a green square, a few strips of muted colors and carefully placed white boxes. It becomes a mysterious, evocative urban horizon. "Inbound" does the same in blacks and grays, dark boxes and curved pencil lines.

Tudor Mitroi paints parts of landscapes and maps on pieces of wood that resemble large jigsaw pieces. Perhaps meant to show the unreality of maps and landscapes, they succeed mainly as an intriguing notion. Jim Coates' "Moving Day" also is primarily an idea, albeit an attractive one. This floor sculpture has an oversized Monopoly house, painted a dark gray, planted at a sharp angle into the middle of a sensually shaped swirl of tree branches. The contrast between the smooth sides of the large house and the small pieces of rough wood, though obvious, works.

Gustavo Candelas' pages for a brochure are attractive, but he gets a D for typography: His lines of type are too long to read easily. However, his powerful color photos of people at work use strong composition and lighting. His Web site demonstrating how cameras control images is ambitious, but like many Web designs, it has small type that's hard to read.

Rob Millard is a rare sculptor with a sense of humor. He's cleverly built a forbidding pair of men's briefs using only mousetraps. Its visual texture goes beyond the gag.

Don't be fooled by Jehanne-Marie Gavarini's seemingly random droppings of colorful, innocent children's toy parts, "Strange Attraction." She's cut, rearranged and glued them together to suggest more "biological" meanings. This witty, imaginative display may look silly, but it's loaded with extra meanings.

"Triple Arch, Moab, Utah" by photographer Arno Minkkinen is a powerful, fascinating black and white diptych of stark John Ford's movie scenery dramatically framed by outstretched hands and a woman's leg.

"Art Department Faculty Exhibit 2002" through Oct. 2, at the University of Massachusetts Lowell University Gallery, McGaurvan Student Center, 71 Wilder St., and Dugan Gallery, Dugan Hall, Broadway Street, Lowell. University Gallery hours Wednesday through Friday, noon - 3 p.m.; Saturday, 1-4 p.m.; Dugan Gallery hours, Monday-Thursday 9 a.m. - 3 p.m. Phone 978-934-3491, 3494. Web: www.uml.edu/dept/art

John Greenwald is a painter and freelance writer. Readers can e-mail him at johnedit@bigfoot.com .