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Friday, September 16, 2011

Visual Arts Review by Mary Margaret Sparks: "Obsessive Attention to Detail" at Galerie Hertz




Saturday September 10 was the opening reception for Galerie Hertz’s 20th Anniversary exhibition.  In 1991, Galerie Hertz opened its doors for the first time in the East Market district starting a movement that continues today; transforming  neighborhood into Louisville’s hub for creative spaces including art galleries, design boutiques and local restaurants. Having exerted that lasting influence, a few years ago the owners moved on to build a new legacy in a different location on South Preston Street. 

Porcupine quills and wood
A work by Albert Sperath
Billy Hertz and Tom Schnepf are the machines behind Galerie Hertz. With their gallery manager Laura Devlin, they work to create exhibitions that stand out among other galleries in Louisville.  Obsessive Attention to Detail features six artists whose disparate styles and mediums, from bronze sculpture to photography that wouldn’t normally be grouped into a single exhibition.

Walking into Galerie Hertz, I was met immediately by the work of Albert Sperath, former director of the Kentucky Art and Craft Foundation. These delicate sculptures are made from found objects such as turtle shells, windshield wiper blades, and acupuncture needles.  The focus of each work is on the materials and construction. The pieces are extremely detail-orientated but exemplify a natural beauty by the lack of color and use of woods, bones, and metal. In many of the sculptures Sperath contrasts the natural materials with the manufactured elements. I was impressed with all of the work but specifically drawn to two pieces on display in another part of the gallery, “Box Turtle Box” and “American Rain”. Talking with Sperath I learned that his artistic process is very organic which acts as a nice compliment to the technicality of the sculptures.

Hanging close to Sperath is work by Michelle Castro, who was part of the first exhibition at Galerie Hertz in 1991 where her works were exclusively two-dimensional. Castro’s new pieces are colorful and exhibit a sense of whimsy. Her three-dimensional work is very strong and one of my favorite pieces was “In My Mind’s Eye”, a mixed media sculpture. Looking at her piece, I experienced a moment of self-reflection as I gazed into the small mirrors making up part of the sculpture.  The rest of the piece includes different parts of a face that function as miniature doors. The whole fits together like a puzzle and its mysterious playful quality is enticing. Castro’s pieces hold many emotions inside and as one views the intricate details of each mosallage (mosaic collage) or sculpture, those emotions emerge. 

"Hangers" photographic art by Jim Ferringer
Another member of that inaugural exhibit was Jim Ferringer.  His nude photographs and prints, at first glance, didn’t seem to fit in with the rest of the show. As I studied the pieces, which are multi-layered composites meticulously created in Photoshop from original source material, I began to understand that his work was connected to the rest of the show in its many small details.  (Hence the title Obsessive Attention to Detail) Ferringer’s work is striking in its subject matter. His nude males are posed in stoic and vulnerable positions, exhibiting calm but dark scenes.  I was most drawn to the signed archival prints lining a back wall of the gallery. These had more dramatic body poses combined with fantastical backgrounds. They reminded me of a Tim Burton movie, dark yet emotional, soft colors with strong figures.  When you see Ferringer’s work, you almost have to stare. They are striking, sometimes uncomfortable, and brilliantly composed.

Other artists in the exhibition include Robmat Butler, Philip Jackson and Brad White. Butler’s works follow on the theme of hanging down. Images of swings and shoes hanging from electric lines are portrayed simply using black paint and electrical tape. The modern looking compositions are paired with basic unstained wood frames for a little contrast in color and materials.

"Egg in Brown" by Phillip Jackson
Phillip Jackson’s realistic trompe l’oeil paintings are fascinating to examine. Using the subject matter of a raw cracked egg, I was given the chance to appreciate the beauty of something I use everyday and take for granted. The viewer sees the talent of Jackson in his painting of the translucent raw egg whites but also experiences a newfound appreciation for often overlooked or mundane things.

Brad White’s bronze sculptures are a nice compliment to the rest of the show.  I was first drawn to the wall featuring his cassette tapes and leaves. The realistic quality is tremendous but I most enjoyed how White kept the pieces in natural bronze and left them unpainted.  In the back of the gallery were my favorite works, a bronze light bulb and crushed water bottle.  Being a lover of realism and trompe l’oeil, I was glad to discover these little gems in their rather inconspicuous location.

The show is a little busy and, perhaps in need of editing, but overall Obsessive Attention to Detail is successful and, after all, it’s a celebration; a celebration of two men and a gallery who have taken a risk and started a creative movement spanning over two decades.

Obsessive Attention to Detail will be on display through September 24. Galerie Hertz is located at 1253 South Preston Street. Open Tuesday–Friday 11AM-5PM, Saturday 11AM-3PM and by appointment.  For more information call the gallery at 502.636.9722 or log on at www.BillyHertzGallery.com.

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