Coinciding with the organization’s one-year anniversary, Otis Street Arts Project recently unveiled its newest exhibition The Critiqued featuring works by thirteen area artists. Artists on display have all participated in the Project’s Critique program, an ongoing series of critical dialogues open to the public and facilitated by area arts professionals. Several of the finished pieces on display in this current exhibition were shown and discussed in unfinished states during those earlier peer reviews, giving audience members a unique perspective into the artists’ thought processes as they work to determine when a work is indeed finished.
The exhibition is refreshingly full of visual experiences. While painting and photography are included, the show also includes sculptural and video work, as well as pieces that combine disparate media in intellectually challenging ways. One rewarding aspect of watching an artist’s process is examining how they relate their aesthetic to artists who have come before. While At the Alter: Jade by Amber Robles-Gordon lightly references the early works of Sam Gilliam, the artist creates something strikingly modern with updated materials including zippers, snaps and gold appliqués. The resulting work is perhaps more sculpture than painting as it extends rigidly from the wall, highlighting her grasp of precedent as she simultaneously strives for something unique.
The evolution of thought is also on display in Ceci Cole Mcintruff’s included work. For her critique several months ago, Mcinturff presented a small series of sculptural forms directly referencing the female breast. For this exhibition, the artist has contributed a larger, more formal grouping of those fragile works entitled Feminine Organe. Gently nestled in a black, sandy substance within an elongated box, the piece could either be a womb-like offering of delicate flesh or a sculptural reliquary of organs. Seeing them now, in a variety of groupings and forms, adds layers of intrigue simply not available if viewed singly.
Two other works that play nicely off one another are Katie Pumphrey’s Strife and Haul and Christian Tribastone’s Charlotte and Wintrop, which hang on opposing gallery walls. The only common visual element is the works’ two-dimensionality, yet each piece creates a scene filled with a similar emotional resonance. In the case of Pumphrey, the roundness of the picture plane easily suggests an undersea realm with an influx of grey towards the top of the work underscoring the breaking of surface tension. Daubs of whites, blues and umber create the illusion of koi in an underwater ballet. The mood is serene, yet slightly ominous, as the quick brushstrokes lend a sense of frenetic movement. Tribastone’s work casts a similarly serene mood in an urban landscape devoid of occupants. His prowess with ink is clearly on display, but the lack of humanity eerily echoes the disquietude in Pumphrey’s work. It is just these sorts of juxtapositions that make this exhibition as edifying for the mind as it is for the eyes.
The Critiqued runs through April 30, 2016 at the Otis Street Arts Project in Mount Rainier, MD.