By MIKE CHAIKEN
They are five artists working in different mediums and who draw from different influences.
But their work is coming together at Paris in Plantsville to underline the theme evoked by the show’s title, “Sophisticated Absurdities.”
The show, which opens on June 8, was organized by Southington artist Clinton Deckert, who is serving as its curator. “Sophisticated Absurdities” features the work of Jon Eastman of Bloomfield, Barbara Hocker of Coventry, Florin Ion Firimita of Winchester, Joshua Smith of Farmington, and Deckert himself.
In press materials for the show, Deckert said the work to be featured “is an exploration of process. The end result is a visual documentation of that creative journey. It is honest art produced by artists who push the limits beyond the usual and it defines some of the best fine art in our region.”
Deckert stated in press materials, “These artists have carved out their own niche by building the foundation of their skills upon the influences of their forebears. The artists and their work seem to echo the influences of Automatism, Dadaism, Expressionism, Bauhaus, and Surrealism. I can’t go back in time to those historic periods, but I can select living artists within my realm who remind me of the type of work that solidified my love of the visual arts in the first place.”
Eastman,who is described as constructivist mixed media artist who rescues and repurposes random found materials into new relevance as post-consumer modernism, said of the show’s theme, “The ‘Sophisticated Absurdities’ premise applies to my work in that many of the elements/ materials/ objects I use in my constructions would be considered garbage (paint can lids, broken serving platters, used building materials, et. al), but have been granted a second life in an artistic context…in short, I have the philosophy of the Dada movement from the early 20th century that influenced me: it’s art because I’m calling it art (for example, like Marcel Duchamp’s signed urinal). The ‘sophistication’ comes in with my arrangement of these elements, my knowledge of the art movements that influenced me, and arriving at a conclusion in terms of color and composition.”
Barbara Hocker, who is described as a mixed media / encaustic artist who uses photography in motion and sometimes blizzard conditions to capture fleeting moments, then encases them in encaustic, said, “My affinity with the idea of ‘Sophisticated Absurdities’ lies in Zen Buddhism metaphysics. Zen is very fond of using absurdity, in a very sophisticated way, to short-circuit our thinking minds and ego in order to open up the space for direct experience. In my ‘travelogue’ series I try to enter this Zen space of ‘no-mind’ by shooting images while driving the car. The need to use my thinking brain to stay safe and alive whilst driving the car means that some other part of me is randomly pointing and shooting the camera. So the art comes from the mind of ‘no-mind’ and the absurdity in this process. There is a further tweak of this in the combination of the digital image with the ancient and very tactile materials of rice paper, beeswax, and damar resin. We think of the digital as disembodied data and I like re-embodying it in materials that emphasize the sensual – the wax has a smell and a luscious tactility, along with a sense of fragility that is far away from ‘digital pixels.’”
Firimita, who is described by the gallery as “Dada-esque, although intentional, mixed media artist whose collage work seems to reflect an altered lens of a kaleidoscope,” was asked via how his work reflected the theme of “sophisticated absurdities,,”
“I don’t believe that art could save the world, but it surely is an accurate way of taking our spiritual, emotional, and political pulse. Today, we live in a fast, confusing, puzzling, divided world that cannot be pinned under any of the usual ‘isms’ (cubism, surrealism, etc.) Everything is fractured, disconnected. There is no difference between news and entertainment, humanism is dead, and we haven’t found anything profound to replace it with, no role models, no meaningful public figures. We fill in the gaps with ‘Dancing with the Stars’ and the Kardashians.”
“In such environment,” he explained, “it has become very difficult to define both the self and the world. Hopefully, one day we will realize that we are in need of a new Renaissance. It is not the first time when artists react like this. The Dadaists and the surrealists were artistic responders to the absurdities of their time. There is plenty of humor in it, of course, but used as a weapon rather than as a form of entertainment. We, artists, are just walking around with flashlights, searching for the Truth, trying to preserve whatever is left of it. We are the new monks, waiting for the world to wake up to culture and beauty and meaning again.”
Smith, who is described in press materials as an oil painter who “paints a ‘never seen that before’ type of dreamlike imagery that evokes distant memories…” said in an email asking about his work, “In regard to the metaphors of my artwork… I find that these symbols although are seemingly obscure, are symbolic of universal themes for faith and hope in circumstances that seem quite dire and possibly absurd.”
And since art often reflects life, how does the artists’ work reflect the sophisticated absurdities of life?
Eastman said, “We live in what has been deemed a ‘disposable world,’ we throw things out without giving it much thought, attempt to recycle, fill up landfills; this to me is absurd, but it’s also modern life…..I throw things out, too, but not before evaluating it for an aesthetic afterlife.”
“Sophisticated Absurdities” opens at Paris in Plantsville on Saturday, June 8 at 6 p.m. Steve Rutledge will be the featured guitarist at the June 8 opening.
The show runs through to June 29. The gallery is open Wednesday noon to 8 p.m., Thursdays, noon to 7 p.m. and Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Additional hours are available by appointment by calling (860)426-1149 or (860)621-5325. Paris in Plantsville Gallery and Studio is at 15 West Main St., Plantsville.
Comments? Email mchaiken@BristolObserver. com.