Carbon at Fellows of Contemporary Art

Carbon at Fellows of Contemporary Art. Photo credit: Genie Davis.

Carbon: Richer than Gold

Fellows of Contemporary Art in Chinatown
Through July 20th


By Genie Davis

In the case of Carbon, at Fellows of Contemporary of Art in Chinatown through July 20th, that element is not only the basis of life, it is the basis of a vibrant artistic life. Beautifully curated by Lauren Kasmer, the ten-artist show is truly lovely and profound, a dazzling collection of artworks that fall into a rich, dark color palette and a variety of mediums.

Terry Arena’s graphite drawings on metal lids and plates are meticulously rendered, offering images of honeybees and their tragic near-disappearance. Here, too, are minute and magical images of nuts and herbs; sculptural works under glass that reveal fragile bee bodies suspended on pins, a honeycomb, golden fiber nuts, each carefully wound and formed. Her stunning sense of craft and her beautiful capture of the fragility and beauty of life and the richness of earth captivates viewers visually and emotionally.

Working on a larger scale, James Griffith’s “Horse and Dog (Biophilia)” uses the unusual materials of tar and white oil on canvas to create a deeply textured painting that feels alive and wild. The medium is evocative not just visually but in a socio-political context: such animal species, when deceased, have generated petroleum substances, which in turn inherently threaten animal life. Griffith says he scratches into the thick tar and oil, creating visceral, highly tactile images.

Clay is the medium used by artist Brian Rochefort’s whose ceramic work “Nica,” made of stoneware, porcelain, and glaze is among the brightest palettes in the gallery. His work is like the unfolding of a strange flower; look inside the sculptural piece to see its heart.

Tam Van Tran offers two astonishing pieces. Like dark emerald peacock feathers, the wing-like spread of his “Untitled” wall sculpture is shaped from acrylic, staples, spirulina, and colored pencil. The staples shimmer, and the winged work has the quality of bird, angel, and butterfly – pinned to the wall; flight poignantly stilled. His “Sanskrit Alphabet” is a lustrous ceramic sculpture consisting of 108 small objects, vase, bowl, and bell-like shapes that eloquently represent change, transience, migration.

Curator Kasmer herself offers 45 lustrous photographic UV prints on aluminum in her “FFF” grid. These works are jewel and mineral-colored abstracts that shift and shiver with the changing light. Working on oil and graphite on silk, Jenene Nagy’s “flag (long surrender)” is a careful, monochrome, geometric work, whose lines seem to vibrate and hum. The artwork is precise, the fabric on which it is created wavers and adds a haunting transience.

Brad Miller’s “Untitled (Stones)” is an entire table top full of hand-formed, tumbled ceramic stones that replicate nature’s wonder, both an homage and a transcendence of nature. Joaquin Boz’ “Chapa #8” is a luminous, thick work that defies its material of graphite on paper, seemingly culled from the depths of the earth. Literal, visceral carbon transfer techniques, fused with acrylic and lacquer on panel make up Chris Oatey’s “March 6, 2015,” which offers its own visual depth. And in Bonita Helmer’s “Crystal Lattice II,” a dimensional, geometric shape – containing what could be an alien creature or magma from the earth’s core – is a visual mind- bender.

In short, it’s elemental: Carbon is a lush and lovely show that takes viewers into the colors, shapes, and images that represent the material itself, and the wonder for which it is responsible.

Fellows of Contemporary Art
970 N. Broadway, Ste 208, Los Angeles, CA 90012
Monday – Friday, 9am – 5pm


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