Exhibition: Forgotten Places
Richard Harrington, Matt Klos, and Ryan Schroeder
Saturday, March 15 through Saturday, April 19, 2014
It is often said that the value of a painting is that it makes us see with "new eyes." By its implicit act of selection, it focuses our gaze on things, or aspects of things, that we may normally have passed over. This thought informs the current exhibit at Oxford: "Forgotten Places." In the exhibit, three painters – Richard Harrington, Matt Klos, and Ryan Schroeder – select their subjects not from grand architectures or picturesque landscapes but from the humble, the discarded, or the derelict abodes of man. The object is to endow them again with meaning and emotional content and, in so doing, call our attention to the regenerative power of art.
The Fort Howard paintings of Matt Klos depict building in the Chesapeake region occupied by military officers decades ago but long since abandoned. But Klos does not charge his images with nostalgia for a bygone time. He examines the houses dispassionately as artifacts in our midst today, with interesting architectural add-ons, with intriguing angles, vertices, and geometrical relationships, and with planes reflecting light or casting shadows. In the artist's own words, "My painting process is a sort of 'figuring out' the bedrock beneath the initial impetus for selecting and painting a particular scene." Each of these "house portraits" thus becomes both the depiction of a place and the record of an observation.
Ryan Schroeder's work also betrays a similar fascination with abandoned buildings. But here the focus is usually on the interior spaces, where loosely hanging ductwork and insulation, wire spools, torn wallpaper, and unused lumber coalesce into intricate designs and compositional arrangements. Although the spaces provide ample evidence of past human intention, the tone of the work is seldom one of melancholy or longing. In Schroeder's paintings, these spaces take on a new life of their own as objects of aesthetic appreciation. Under the artist's constructive gaze, age and dilapidation seem to bring forth a newfound beauty.
Although an accomplished painter of landscapes, Richard Harrington has found a particular artistic "niche" in the study of barns. Unlike Schroeder and Klos, however, who seem to revel in the clutter of disuse, Harrington strips the object to its bare geometric structure. Re-cast in eerily haunting colors and rendered in solid planes of light and shadow, the forms become charged with emotion and take on a monumental presence often reminiscent of more stately architectural types. Harrington states that his intention in painting barns is "to turn a subject of sweet nostalgia and American pie into something contemporary and iconic, representational to an extent, but imbued with the energy and surface of expressionism." Upstate New York audiences will remember one typical depiction, "Hot Summer Sky," which was voted the most popular of many fine pieces in the 2013 Finger Lakes exhibition.
Artists' Reception: Saturday, March 15th
An Artists' Reception is planned for Saturday, March 15 from 5:30 to 7:30 PM. The Reception is open to the public. Oxford Gallery is located at the northwest corner of Park Ave. and Oxford Street.