In Conversation

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In Conversation seeks to create rich dialogues between University of New Haven faculty and their artist peers, living in Connecticut, New York, and Oregon.  I asked each participating University of New Haven Art & Design colleague to recommend another artist/designer who they are currently in conversation with, and as a result, seven intriguing artist parings have taken shape.  The show focuses on the parallels between art and design language and encourages collaboration between faculty and their communities.  Recent artworks from various solo and group exhibitions in CT, NY, Bristol, England, and Prato, Italy, are represented.  In this group show, a variety of visual themes have emerged: colony collapse disorder, bodily abstraction, man vs. nature, individual and group identities, and shifting cultural perspectives.

Phil Lique and Ronnie Rysz explore popular subjects with underlying grotesque content.  Phil Lique’s installation references the symbol of Christ on the cross, self-portraiture, and comic book style drawing.  His work morphs and changes direction to suggest that finding fixed meaning is impossible in a society inundated with information.  Ronnie Rysz’s glamorously bold portraits depict figures in a state of suspended ecstasy.  Some of the subjects stare blankly back at us with open mouths, while others exhibit a side glance or submit themselves.  One detects a sardonic commentary about the role of consumer objects, marketing, and shiny surfaces in our everyday lives.  Perhaps we live in a moment of self-obsession and narcissism?

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Jeff Ostergen and Christopher Michlig explore vibrant colors in worlds all their own. Ostergren combines food groups and pharmaceuticals with paint and resin to comment on how consumer marketing influences our personal feelings about our bodies.  Michlig’s Processed Worlds series explores fragmentary elements juxtaposed over sunset gradients.  The lone figure in Exploding Cathedral is riding away from the action, reminiscent of Danny’s tricycle rides down to long hallway in Stanley Kubrick’s, the Shining.   In dialogue, these works discuss societal constructs and the struggle to form individual identities.

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Joe Smolinski and Jeff Slomba explore the effects of mankind over nature.  In Colony Collapse, 2014-2015,  Joe Smolinski associates recent bee hive deaths to excessive fossil fuel consumption, monoculture farming, militarism, and nuclear warfare. Utilizing an audio score by Andy Flynn, which is mixed and co-produced by Ben Durrant, the low ambient sound gradually builds into a dense cacophonous soundscape.  The lone bee is symbolic of the complicated and damaging effect of mankind’s impact on the environment.  The 8 minute animation is from his solo show, Second Nature, at Mixed Greens this past spring.

Jeff Slomba’s Oocyst, 2015, presents up-close moments of intrigue. Once one looks into the oculi, architectural worlds emerge.  His combination of traditional plaster with cutting edge 3D printing, exceed our sculptural expectations.  The forms are based on Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris, France, among other architectural references.  Slomba’s play with scale renders the acorn form as many times larger than life.  The oculi reveal intricate and minuscule worlds, suggesting that nature is more sophisticated than we give it credit.  Smolinski and Slomba suggest that viewers take some time to reflect on our complex relationship with nature.

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Cecilia Mandrile and Claudia Demonte’s installation explores the relationship between a former student and instructor, who are now artist colleagues and collaborators.  Madrile’s hand sewn and ink jet printed dolls appear ghost like and enigmatic; some are paired in clusters. Demonte’s paper mache, painted figures exhibit colorful and patterned costumes reminiscent of various cultural attire.  The dolls face each other, seemingly in dialogue.

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Aude Jomini and Laura Marsh explore figurative costumery, and digital and handmade qualities in their large-scale installation.  The imagery is derived from a limited edition zine, called Body Duel.  The imagery is taken from a photo shoot in Marsh’s studio, combined with Jomini’s explorations in multiple layers of printing and image splicing, along with details of textiles.  The work references the female body as a site for dueling, role-playing, organized movement, and a mock war-game.

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Reno Migani and Chris Passehl investigate human engagement with nature.  The work is participatory as viewers are invited to take a load off in Migani’s layered work, which references club chairs from the 1920s.  Passehl’s gridded photograph includes a nature shot that vertically blurs within the next two frames. Sitting in the chair, looking up, one feels a sense of reverence for nature as the layered wood supports our spines.

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Tim Nikiforuk and Mark Williams’s works glow with neon paint. Williams’s painting reveals a horse and buggy era obscured by paint splatters.  Nikiforuk’s cake segments are seductive yet grotesque, drawing us in with layers of glistening paint squeezed out of cake bags.  Both artists explore the relationship between surface and underlying meaning.  It’s as if Williams is asking us to reflect on a time once was and Nikiforuk is asking us to examine the textures that are both palpable and addictive to us.

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John Arabolos and Robert Rattner explore abstract patterns in nature, while Jamie Slenker explores the role of music therapy as a conduit for forming group identities.  Arabolos digitally mirrors shapes taken from photographs of nature, whereas Rattner zooms in on water formations to reveal the refections of swimmers and the surrounding habitat.

Together, participating faculty express the need to discuss human impact on the environment, gender roles and their evolution, consumer messages and their impact on human consciousness, and the need to represent shifting cultural perspectives as individuals and in communities.

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