The Newport Mercury Covers Blanc de Blanc

Mercury_Blanc de Blanc Article_Page 1

Painter Coral Woodbury believes that “White obliterates. [It’s] the color of absence. Of staring hard into fog.” In Melville’s “Moby-Dick,” that same fearful shade is identified by Ishmael, who’s terrified of “milk-white fog” and the titular cetacean’s unholy, uncolored flesh. “Witness the white bear of the poles, and the white shark of the tropics,” he suggests. “What but their smooth, flaky whiteness makes them the transcendent horrors they are?” Though white is often linked with idealized purity and order, Ishmael argues that “there yet lurks an elusive something in the innermost idea of this hue.”

“Blanc de Blanc,” arriving July 1 at Jamestown Arts Center alongside their sixth annual Summer Soirée, offers a more expansive profile of white — and a glimpse of the “elusive something” it often contains. Submissions from 120 artists were corralled by Nezka Pfeifer of Everhart Museum and designer Rita Reamer, the exhibit’s curators, into a collection of 37 artworks —“[a] pretty big number for us,” adds Exhibitions Director Karen Conway.

The extremely minimal coloration in an Agnes Martin retrospective invited Conway to consider other thoughtful experiments in the achromatic. For “Blanc de Blanc,” she wanted artists who used “an intentional palette…Part of the submission was an explanation of why white was used in this way.” Under these guidelines, a respectable roster of local and distant talent assembles in the gallery space. Sculptor Peter Diepenbrock says “white is a simple accommodation” in his “Polar Vortex.” Departing from his usual deployment of a material’s “inherent color,” Diepenbrock writes that the robust steel piece is patterned with “white [shapes] as positive and the empty spaces as ‘negatives.’” It consists of two laser-cut constructs slathered in automotive paint, convincingly woven into a suggestion of “a storm” or “an energy flow form.”

In contrast to Diepenbrock’s equable steel, Woodbury contributes “Shroud II,” which she describes as a “large monotype, painted over the impression of a work shirt left behind after an arborist’s overdose, and scattered with grey-white ash from trees he felled.” A phantasmic tribute to her deceased friend, the painting recalls Melville’s notion that “from that pallor of the dead, we borrow the expressive hue of the shroud.” It’s intangible, “something your hand would go right through if you tried to hold it,” Woodbury says. She hopes the work may “offer some quiet comfort to others who have been left behind after an overdose. There are so very many of us in Rhode Island.”

The funerary vibe of Woodbury’s ashen paints is chromatically resounded by Tiffany Adams’ “Lanice Conchilega,” a pyre-like structure that the artist says was inspired by the Gulf Coast, specifically its “sun-bleached shells, rocks and coral.” Offering aquatic complement to Adams’ towering mineral is Amanda S. Fenlon’s “White on White Islands.” The oil painting luxuriates in gauzy, barely-there splashes of color, approximating either a lazy summer’s day or a pleasant bout of amnesia.

Lana Filippone’s “Bloom” is similarly evocative in its use of gold. Bulbous, milky forms bubble up like spring water from the piece’s center, while shining flowers sprout on its periphery. An uncanny, mutative heirloom, it examines “the paradoxical relationship between perpetuity and impermanence,” Filippone explains. “Porcelain clay…comes full circle in my work. Once liquid or malleable, it is transformed with experience and its fragility is frozen in time.”

Joan Hall’s “Fading Forest/Warming Sea” also deals in motifs of delicacy and transience. Bleached of their typically marine palette, the putrefying blooms appear like a dim wisp of smoke after the apocalypse. You might be placated by the piece’s graceful motion, but its title implies a more catastrophic situation. Hall’s characteristic fusion of plastic and paper is particularly poignant here, embodying both decay and inflorescence.

Such dualism animates a color like white. Artist David Batchelor finds white a potential source of “ostentatious emptiness,” while designer Kenya Hara promotes that selfsame nothingness as an ideal means to “enhance a spiritual awakening.” In “Blanc de Blanc,” white is likewise fickle. If white is a “meditative” color, then maybe meditation is a confrontation with blankness, and tranquility an encroachment on the void. The artists here willingly dive into this nothing, reclaiming empty space for aesthetic ends. The whites here are human in their variety of tint and mood, containing everything — and nothing — at the same time.

 

Read on the Mercury’s Site…

Published in The Newport Mercury, June 29, 2016

Written by Alexander Castro

Jamestown Arts Center | Location: 18 Valley Street, Jamestown, Rhode Island 02835 | Mailing Address: PO Box 97, Jamestown,
Rhode Island 02835 | for more Information call: (401) 560-0979 or email

© 2017 JAMESTOWN ARTS CENTER. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

Designed and Built by Worldways Social Marketing