The Harwood Art Center is housing two powerful and skillfully executed exhibitions titled “Elemental” by Rachel Popowcer and “Husht Reverberations” by Meg Carlson through Oct. 29.
In “Elemental” Popowcer reveals her latest approach to a personal natural environmental narrative that embraces early-20th-century modernism with a strong Taoist touch.
In “Echo,” spheres cascade down through the vertical composition within a spiral track.
Though the whole design of “Echo” is abstract it shares a kinship with 18th-century Asian landscape painting that included poetry written directly on the painted surface.
There is even a square cluster of marks within a small circle on the left side of “Echo” that mimics the typical chop stamp used in Asian painting and prints.
Popowcer has several approaches that integrate words into her designs that range from wood-burning tool marks arranged like cuneiform writing as seen in “Wraith,” featuring a vertical column of marks on the left juxtaposed to two large ghostlike ovals on the right.
Popowcer designed “Wraith” on a square format that could easily dictate a static composition, but her dynamically asymmetrical calculation echoes similar blends of ovals and verticals found in Robert Motherwell’s “Elegy to the Spanish Republic” painting series from the early 1950s.
In a lecture at the Johns Hopkins University in 1963 Motherwell described his inner tension while painting the elegy series as “a nut just beginning to crack.”
Since Popowcer is so much more meticulous and detail-oriented than the broad-brush abstract expressionist Motherwell, I wonder how she keeps it together in the studio.
Popowcer pulls the stops in “Story (a landscape)” that is filled with layers of cursive writing, wood-burning marks all under an orb-laden red sky. The composition reveals the landscape’s geological record in narrative form as if the land is telling its legend out loud.
In a surprise move Popowcer offers a collaborative sculpture titled “Story Eggs” to her blend of mixed-media paintings.
The well-crafted piece consists of brown eggs covered in writing contained within an inverted glass vase that is mounted on the wall by a nicely designed aluminum holder made by Damon Chetchis at CMY fabricators.
The gorgeous piece evokes thoughts of Joseph Cornell as well as displays in natural history museums with a dollop of Steam Punk aesthetic thrown in.
Overall Popowcer has shown mastery of her chosen techniques while offering viewers a thought provoking collection of museum-quality mixed-media works. Two thumbs up.
While you are there do pass by Carlson’s ambitious “Husht Reverberations” installation in the main gallery.
Her huge layered fabric sculpture overwhelms the gallery, which is large enough to support a group show.
Carlson’s air-cooled VW Beetle-size object is an incredible achievement representing countless hours sewing together a mountain of fabric scraps into a coherent landscape feature-like statement with a soft side.
The piece is reminiscent of works by New York artists Eva Hesse and Nancy Graves from the 1950s and 1960s.
Carlson is pushing the envelope of what soft sculpture can be with a genius for building a sectional support structure that allows her boat to leave or re-enter the basement.
The piece, which eats up most of the gallery’s volume, evokes thoughts of sailing ships in bottles and other seemingly impossible feats of legerdemain.
Both shows are well worth a lingering visit. Bravo!