Monday, December 11, 2006

Construction Crew II: An exhibit at Gallery 80808/Vista Studios

Wim Roefs just opened his own, small gallery in downtown Columbia, SC. It is just around the corner from Vista Studios. He represents about thirty or so artists from South Carolina. He's selected only those with established reputations, generally artists working in university settings or past winners of the state's fellowship award or those selected for the state's Triennial exhibit.

Wim is taking lots of chances opening up a new gallery in the highest rent district of town. His gallery will exist only on art sales. There are no framing services or art supplies. There are no knick-knacks on a sales counter. Everything is up scale. There is no place like it in this city.

Because this new space is small and dedicated to all the artists who have signed with Wim, Gallery 80808 at Vista Studios is still where Wim is mounting special exhibitions. He had several two-week shows last year, had more this year, and is booking into 2007 as well.

The show currently on view is called "Construction Crew II". It features four artists, including art quilter Christine Tedesco. Christine has a decade long relationship with the Arts Commission, has been in a triennial show, and has a nice educational background as a working architect. Her quilts are minimalistic, modern "log cabin" design variations that are somehow compared to the quilters of the Gee Bend in Alabama. She uses only dupuoini silk. The results are quite expensive. Small pieces (approximately 12 inch squares), unframed start at $375. A double bed size quilt cost $6000. There are hundreds of quilters with her abilities both in design and fiber construction. Yet, she's got the nice educational background, doesn't need the money for her work, and evidently was in the right place at the right time.

I had looked forward to meeting her, as I've admired her work for years. She was charming and very, very nice. She paid me the nice compliment of coming into my studio. Her husband, who teaches architecture at Clemson and freelances with her small architecture company, was also quite pleasant. At least two of her pieces were already sold. Wim was doing a good job with his show.

The other artists were Paul Yanko, Virginia Scotchie, and Matt Overend. Yanko is a fairly recent Ohio transplant. He teaches at the SC Governor's School in Greenville. His wife is also a paint. She now teaches at a local technical college along with Linda McCune--who is unbelievable fantastic. I met the wife in the bathroom and we had a great conversation. Paul's work is done by tearing his paintings into tiny pieces and reconstructing them into fields of color, like a large, jagged jig-saw puzzle. Steve actually liked some of them. I was unimpressed but can see how his work would relate well to high-schoolers.

Virginia Scotchie, like Christine Tedesco and I, was also born in 1959. (So was Wim.) She is easily the most reknown of the artists. Her university position has brought her to teaching opportunities in Hawaii and abroad. She just finished a very important ceramic installation in Tawian. Her textures are fantastic. The colors are dazzling. The objects are all based on handmade tools or implements remembered from her youth, like giant funnels and oversized pipes. It all looks very good, academic, and perfect in the pure white gallery setting. At once, any viewer knows "this is art". The prices reflect the implied status. The craftsmanship is top-notch. I find all of it interesting but not as thought provoking as the statements suggest.

Years ago, Alex found the discarded shards of a Virginia Scotchie piece outside the door to the ceramic studio at McMasters Hall on the USC campus. He was there on his bicycle but called me for a ride. He carefully stashed the broken pieces into my van. This will likely be the only Virginia Scotchie we will ever own. They are a bright cobalt blue, crusty and perfect in the garden. They remind me of my Archeology Project--like they came from some cultural dig into a mysterious, imaginary civilization. I thought this when I first put them in between our herbs. Frankly, I like these broken bits much more than any of the work on display though one "installation" was quite outstanding. (Several pieces displayed on small shelves that proturded from the gallery wall in a large circle formation.)

The other artist was Matt Overend. Wim has shown his work in other exhibits. I didn't like them much then. I didn't care for these either. Then, however, I met Matt. He was funny and likable. As a result, the work grew on me. Steve likes his paintings, especially the matte finish and the texture.

Overall, Steve and I had a great time Friday evening at the opening.

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