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Harwood show worth a lingering visit

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The Harwood Art Center is hosting its annual “Surface: Emerging Artists of New Mexico” exhibition with 11 artists in the main gallery, while Ruby Troup’s beautiful solo installation titled “Point of Interest” resides in the front gallery through July 25.

Troup was selected for a solo show from last year’s emerging artists exhibition. There are hints of Louise Nevelson’s wooden assemblages from the 1950s and 1960s and Kurt Schwitters’ early 20th century constructions. Troup’s theme also touches upon Tom Robbins’ iconic and intriguing novel “Another Roadside Attraction.”

However, Troup truly owns her constructivist style and technique. Each object reflects the refined execution of a master artist. Her work also embraces a palette of hues and materials far beyond Nevelson’s and Schwitters’ predominately wood-based black-and-white efforts.

My favorite piece incorporates a plastic pink flamingo reminiscent of the ubiquitous East Coast summer yard art from my 1950s childhood. Though Troup lampoons the roadside sleaze of low-stakes commerce she also enjoys elevating it to a sophisticated art form.

The main gallery hosts many approaches to making art. Photographer Keith Scott offers cosmically inspired nocturnal landscape scenes that subtly transcend vernacular and even professional night shots. Scott’s images capture the night soul of New Mexico much as Ansel Adams did so many years ago.

CB Bryan submits wonderful painterly bas relief assemblages to the fray based upon her “Datrig” project inspired by rigging loads on tracks and boats. A clear favorite is “Forward Follow Utility Truck (pile up painting #1)” the most conventional of the trio of truck and trailer inspired paintings.

All three are reminiscent of Beijing artist Lin Lecheng’s analytical drawings of canal work boats that he showed at Tsinghau University in 2015.

Bryan never saw that show, but the two artists have similar sensibilities until Bryan’s excitingly relaxed color choices and brushwork are considered. Bryan can burn the rubber off the tire and scare the bird off the wire.

Dynamism exudes from Kirsten Angerbauer’s “Revision no.1” a triangle-based complex in plywood and charcoal that jumps off the wall demanding notice. The charcoal cascades down the wall, forming a small pile on the floor. It is reminiscent of Cornelia Parker’s burned-churches series. Angerbauer is a sculptor to watch.

Costumes have been a part of many artists’ output for a long time. In “How I Felt,” Marlena Livingston created a wearable wool sculpture that echoes human anatomy. Her composition includes the brain, spinal column, heart, lungs and other internal organs. Her mental health-oriented presentation includes two photographs of the piece worn by a person. She also exhibits several votive objects. Two thumbs up.

Eric Romero is a highly skilled figurative painter with the patience to get things right. His three beautifully executed untitled oil paintings on canvas present three nude people whose identities are hidden, as heads and lower limbs end beyond the format. His concerns include the transcendent qualities of the New Mexico culture that tends to accept and integrate people from all origins and ethnicities.

Romero’s paintings are intended to transcend race, gender and sexuality. His work belongs in a larger market where it could support him.

The winner of next year’s solo exhibition is fiber artist Dante Betsch who seeks to break down cultural stereotypes and conservative stigmas. Fiber art already has an international impact and is rapidly expanding as a global medium. I encourage Betsch to peruse the catalogs of the 10 “Lucerne to Beijing International Fiber Arts Biennials” that have taken place in China over the past 20 years.

There are many more treasures in these two installations well worth a lingering visit. For the first time in my memory, the Harwood is very well air conditioned. You might want to bring a light sweater. Don’t miss these shows.

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