ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The Harwood Art Center is hosting “Surface: Emerging Artists of New Mexico” with 11 female and one male artist in the main gallery. The front gallery features “Muscle Memory,” an installation by Cecilia McKinnon, through July 20.
The two shows are related in that McKinnon was selected for a solo exhibit from last year’s emerging artists exhibition. I love the concept of McKinnon’s installation as articulately laid out in her artist statement, but my internal jury is still out on the product of that concept.
In the main gallery, there is an extravaganza of approaches to art making, ranging in scale from very small to monumental. Helen Atkins plumbs the depths of female identity in small jewel-like objects that incorporate decorative metals and image-laden mirrors.
As viewers engage the work, their reflections become part of each small construction. How much of ourselves are mere reflections or projections of other people’s identities?
On the monumental side are two free-standing assemblages by Ruby Troup and two huge wall-mounted sculptures by Penelope Young.
Troup is also showing three smaller pieces titled “Next Exit” that are colorfully complex and require careful study. Her large free-standing works are in natural earthen-hued wood.
There are hints of Louise Nevelson’s wooden assemblages from the 1950s and ’60s, but Troup comes closest to emulating the controlled chaos found in the movie “Interstellar.” The film featured a segment near the event horizon of a black hole where space and time were transmuted into an architectonic nightmare of infinite possibilities that were quite near the feeling evoked by Troup’s compulsive compositions.
Troup has been awarded a well-deserved solo exhibition to coincide with the 2019 emerging artists show for her efforts.
Speaking of black holes, Rachel Harris Huffman asks “How Heavy is a Hole?” in her multimedia installation that includes an artist’s handmade book.
As a onetime assistant librarian, I was drawn to Young’s ambitiously organic monumental constructions made of discarded and by now outmoded catalog cards. Her “Leave in the Flaws” constructions are fluidly designed so they seem to ooze down the wall in a Dali-esque cascade.
Young can skillfully execute her ideas while retaining a sense of ironic humor.
Among my favorite painters in the show are Alison Green and Emma Casady, both of whom execute beautifully but in very different ways.
Green has the largest number of paintings in the show and is focused on organic fecundity and threatened botanicals. In “Elms,” Green concentrates on the tree’s ability to propagate flying seeds to plant its future offspring in favorable soil. All of her paintings are beautifully composed and rendered in an understandable style that remains abstract. Green has a solid artistic future ahead.
Casady also has the wow factor in her very contemporary geometric abstractions. In works like “Strength,” she reveals her prodigious painting skills, ability to handle and comprehend color and imagine complex spatial relationships.
If one were to sneak any one of Casady’s paintings into the Richard Levy Gallery or almost any high-end contemporary gallery in Los Angeles, it would fit like a curator’s white glove, based upon its atmospherics and immaculate technique. Casady needs to merge with a professional gallery and bypass any further emerging.
Hayden Barnard is exploring a blend of painting and sculpture in his constructivist-inspired work. The day I visited the show, the gallery lights were broken, leaving Barnard’s piece at a disadvantage, as it requires excellent lighting to function.
When properly lit, his geometric wire constructions cast shadows onto the painted surface, creating depth and a modicum of excitement.
This is a solid exhibition with a good cross section of N.M. artists.