Formal Complaint: Artists in Conversation

formal complaint image

Formal Complaint: Artists in Conversation
Thursday, May 25, 2017

Join artists Female Background, Aria Dean (via Skype), Christopher Hanrahan, and Mario Navarro in a reading and conversation with Formal Complaint co–curator Dana Kopel. For this event each artist will read a brief passage (from a text of their own, or one that they admire) that connects to their work and ideas. Following the reading, Kopel will moderate a discussion on the exhibition’s themes of sad formalism, tender objects, and domestic and vernacular architecture.

Formal Complaint April 15–May 28, 2017 Opening Reception: Saturday April 15, 6–9pm


Knockdown Center

Craft, scrap, and architectural minimalism coincide in Formal Complaint. Featuring work by Aria Dean, Female Background, Christopher Hanrahan, Mario Navarro, and Megan Pahmier, the exhibition returns handiwork to formalism, while maintaining a sense of slackness.

Metal armatures lean and bend precariously; a painting on unstretched canvas drags on the floor. Discarded materials and everyday objects come to conjure an upright but “bereft formalism,” as Hanrahan calls it. His sculptural outline of a table rendered in thin strips of brass deploys a graceful material precarity to reclaim architectural space. An untitled sculpture by Dean disrupts the gallery space, with pipes that lean precariously against the wall and stretch across the floor; and her floor-grazing painting Untitled, from the Glob Cobbler (2016), is marked with streaks of black, white, and ochre, seemingly part artwork and part dropcloth.

Tenderness and despair coalesce in objects that can only just support themselves, much less make a claim for historical or philosophical significance. Some works can barely sustain their original forms: the grapes speared on a steel rod in Pahmier’s Fountain (2015), for instance, shrivel and rot over the course of the exhibition. The vaguely figurative object sculptures of Female Background act as neither reference nor obfuscation, like signals of intended failure. Mario Navarro’s mobiles repurpose materials from local demolitions—rebar, bits of stone, and cement. Hanging from the ceiling, they combine the flat pictorial space of a painting with the haphazard juxtapositions of found sculpture, combining elements of destruction and decor.

The works in the exhibition undermine past minimalisms from multiple directions—in terms of material, attitude, and dependence on context—but out of a care for and maintenance of form, rather than a casting off of it. Through these mergers of vernacular minimalism and sad design, work and supporting structure, Formal Complaint creates its own ecology of exhibitionary space.

Neurotica – a group art exhibition at the UMVA Gallery at CTN, Portland, ME April 1-30, 2016


Image 1: Craig Becker, Scratch 15, 2015. Archival pigment print, edition of 10.
Image 2: Sascha Braunig, Comber 1, oil on linen over panel, 12 x 15 IN, 2015.
Image 3: Paul Oberst, Illumination 14/4 Traversing Fear, glazing & wax on pigment print mounted to wood panel, 10 x 8 IN, 2014 (in collaboration with Patrick McNamara)

Opening Reception:
In conjunction with First Friday Artwalk, April 1, from 5 – 8 PM, open to the public

PORTLAND, MAINE: The UMVA Gallery at CTN in Portland, Maine is pleased to announce the opening of Neurotica, a group exhibition of artworks by Jeffrey Ackerman, Nancy Morgan Barnes, Robert Barnes, Craig Becker, Sascha Braunig, Anita Clearfield, Kenny Cole, Veronica Cross, Gabriella D’Italia, Michel Droge, Brenton Hamilton, Karen MacDonald, Natasha Mayers, Scott Minzy, Paul Oberst, Robert Shetterly, Nora Tryon, Kathy Weinberg, and Richard Wilson. The exhibition features works in painting, video, drawing, installation, sculpture, printmaking, and photography that explore a common theme of expressive and intense psychological self-examination. The exhibition is co-curated by Jeffrey Ackerman and Veronica Cross and is sponsored by the Maine Arts Journal (MAJ), which will be publishing their Spring 2016 issue, coming out April 1, on the same theme.

Neurotica invites investigations into the subconscious, collective memory, behavior, and mores. The MAJ describes the theme: “Neurotica (nu-rŏ-tĭ’-ka) – noun: The content, processes or imagery of an artist’s work that wells from her/his personal psychological processes including, but not limited to: obsessions, appetites, desires, libido, anxieties, taboos, sexuality, quirks, psychic anomalies, neurological idiosyncrasies and intentional markers of individual personality.” As progeny of psychoanalysis, markers of neurotica are found in the imagery, sound/music, performance, process and ideas that inform and are informed by our multifaceted cultures and interior worlds.

Whether working associatively or steering the improvisation, how the artists in Neurotica make their marks can reveal as much as what make those marks about. The sensuous surfaces of Braunig’s paintings offer an internal ‘scape of persona deconstructed down to its sinewy synapses of the most infrared of gray matters. That sense of interiority – as access to the symbolic and visceral – is also found in a different manner in the feverish graphite scribing of Droge’s drawings. The course is set yet undetermined. MacDonald’s saved humble objects are refashioned into landscape installations that speak of the ways we collect things, stories, people as extensions of our own character. The gesture of stitching lines and folds across an expanse of white or black cotton reveals the movement as a meditation, creating a logic of eternal horizon lines in D’Italia’s work.

Elsewhere, dream narratives conjure scenes of anxiety, stimulation, and fractured personae.
Exposure and vulnerability populate Robert Barnes’ painting of a self-conscious model and Oberst’s photograph figure is targeted beneath its/his incriminating stripes preserved in a waxy amber. Weinberg’s lens peeps through a keyhole. Becker’s photo-phantasm levitates in a cyber-cerebral space.

Many of the Neurotica artists exhibit on national and international levels while maintaining strong footholds in Maine. Exhibition catalogues will be available for purchase.

About the curators: Jeffrey Ackerman has formerly directed a gallery in New York City and Veronica Cross has developed independent curatorial projects in Maine, New York, and Wales, UK.

The Union of Maine Visual Artists is a nonprofit organization created for artists by artists and the MAJ is the quarterly publication of the UMVA. The UMVA advocates for its members and provides a structure for artists to create projects, produce exhibitions, initiate affiliations and chapter groups throughout the state. CTN, a nonprofit organization that provides public access and community television programming for Portland, has generously provided space for UMVA exhibitions and projects.

Jeffrey Ackerman
Veronica Cross
The UMVA Gallery at CTN,
Community Television Network
516 Congress St., Portland, Maine
Gallery hours: Monday- Friday, 12 noon to 5pm; other viewing hours may be made by special arrangement, please call 207-632-9008