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In Search of the Real

The 2019 Gallery Season Preview

by Rebecca M. Alvin

Artists have a special relationship with the world. Regardless of their approach, whether abstract, representational, or somewhere in between, their task is to take what’s real to them and transfer it to their medium of choice, usually with the hope of communicating that reality to others in the world. When we speak of truth and reality, it is often in very strict terms, as in “the truth” or “reality,” as if there were only one. But subjectivity is always a part of these concepts, even when the representation seems very literal or overt.

The medium that is perhaps most strongly associated with representation of the real is photography. With its ability to capture real life and pause it in a still frame, photography can work as documentary, as evidence, as witness, whether it is in fine art photographic portraits, street photography, or photojournalism. But in an age where everyone with a cell phone believes him/herself to be a photographer, the role of the artist can be even more powerful.

At Albert Merola Gallery, the photograph as document is celebrated in a show of works by Peter Hujar (June 28 – July 21) that capture a moment in time we are all reflecting upon now as we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots this year. One of the images is an iconic one Hujar took for the Gay Liberation Front in 1969, which was used in a famous poster the following year. But also, there are intimate black and white portraits of people like David Wojnarowicz that demonstrate the difference between taking a snapshot and crafting a photographic image.

The Caterpillar & The Orange by Curtis Speer, CUSP Gallery

Photographer Curtis Speer exhibits his own photography at CUSP Gallery throughout the season. This year, he’s featuring a series of images that take real-life creatures, such as birds and fish, and remove them from their natural environments, placing them in painterly still lifes that emphasize both the mimetic quality of photography and its natural affinity for Surrealism in juxtaposing a dead fish, for example, with a bruised orange against a black background.

Along these lines, but perhaps a bit more macabre, are the photographs of Kimberly Witham, which are currently on exhibit at Gary Marotta Fine Art through July 31. Witham, who studied art history, has integrated roadkill into compositions reminiscent of the great European masters of centuries past in her previous works. In her latest series, she features domestic items alongside both live and dead animals, asking us to consider their relationships in a very provocative approach.

AMP Gallery shows a lot of photography, perhaps more than any other gallery, with shows throughout the season featuring photographers Katrina del Mar, Bobby Busnach, Jamie Casertano (whose work you can see all month in our Parting Shot column), Bobby Miller, Jennifer Moller, Frank Mullaney, and others. Of particular interest is a show there August 2 – 21 that features photography, as well as works in other media. The show offers some of Miller’s highly stylized portraits alongside Busnach’s 1970s candid-feeling portraits.

Paris by Francis Olschafskie, Schoolhouse Gallery

Moving one step away from the realism that is photography’s bread and butter, so to speak, there are a few photographers who bring the real into the realm of the unreal through photographic processes and approaches that are distinct. The Schoolhouse Gallery is presenting a show of intriguing works by Francis Olschafskie, a photographer who merges together different locations within his images, creating a kind of time-travel effect that speaks of boundary-crossing in an inventive way. His work will be shown August 9 –28, along with other magnificent Schoolhouse artists in various media: Ted Larsen, Donald Traver, Mark Adams, Clark Derbes, Ellen Rich, and Lynne Kortenhaus.
At the eclectic Rice-Polak Gallery, while most of the work is not photographic, artist Susan Mikula’s new images offer another version of photography, incorporating into it the use of blurring as an expressive element. Her work will be included in a group show alongside collagist Deb Goldstein and painters Willie Little and René Romero Schuler (who is also a sculptor) July 25 – August 14.

Texas artist Barry Stone will have a show June 28 – July 15 at Gaa Gallery, featuring photographs that are manipulated using something called “data bending,” which makes the photographic prints, just slightly off, with digital artifacts, themselves part of the subject matter in these works. And at Studio Lacombe in the Whaler’s Wharf mall, artist Gaston Lacombe combines photography with other creative tools to create work that often takes the male figure and Provincetown as its focus. He has shows all summer long.

Parcheesi, 1969, (with Red, Mimi, and Ben) by Arthur Cohen, Bakker Gallery

Even further abstracted are the photographs of Grace Hopkins, which will be featured at the Berta Walker Gallery, June 28 – July 20, in a show called Patterns of Portugal in which Hopkins uses her trademark super-closeup shooting to create colorful images of the finest details she encountered in Portugal. Often seen as paintings upon first glance, Hopkins’ work reminds us how to look at the smallest of features of everything, and perhaps everyone, around us rather than always seeing the “big picture.”

Of course, in Provincetown, painting is still the dominant mode of artistic expression. Like photography, it can, of course, be drawn from the real life experiences of the painter, such as the plein air paintings made while directly witnessing the subject matter before the painter’s eyes. There is a spectrum of approaches from photorealism to complete abstraction.

The Bowersock Gallery is celebrating its 15th year in town this season. While they offer an incredibly diverse array of styles and media in their eclectic roster of artists, representational art is their strong suit. A type of painting they continue to feature is photorealism, epitomized in the works of Sydney Bella Sparrow, one of their core artists whose works are included in the current group show opening this weekend. But this year, that incredible attention to detail and fine technique are on display in the work of Alex Jove, whose self-portrait will be featured in their juried show The Modern Male (July 5 – 25).

Self-Portrait by Alex Jove, Bowersock Gallery

As an artist colony with over 100 years of history behind it, Provincetown is still an incredible place to find historically significant works by key figures in modern art. Galleries such as Berta Walker Gallery and Julie Heller Gallery have impressive collections, as do our two main art institutions, the Fine Arts Work Center and especially, the Provincetown Art Association and Museum. But there are smaller galleries that also yield opportunities to see such works.

In particular, Bakker Gallery has made a name for itself featuring both living and deceased artists whose works are important facets of what “Provincetown art” is. One area in which they’ve played a particularly important role is in rediscovering lost works, often by women artists ignored by art historians. To that end, Bakker will hold a group exhibition called All in the Family, August 2 – 25, featuring works by artists whose spouses or other family members you may have heard of, but who are new to you. Bakker also has amazing shows of works by Evelin Bodfish Bourne, Alvin Ross, and Karl Knaths throughout the season, as well as the marvelous works of Arthur Cohen, which are on view June 28 – July 21; July 26 – August 18; and again, August 23 – September 15.

Whit’s Porch by Sean Flood, Kobalt Gallery

Egeli Gallery is also doing a show of historical works: Old Provincetown, Selected Works from early masters of the Provincetown Art Colony, August 9 – 15. It features the work of one of the most important painters of Provincetown art history, Charles Webster Hawthorne, as well as works by painters who studied here with him, including John Whorf, Marie Lokke, and Emile Gruppe.

The expressive use of paint comes in many forms. Sometimes it’s the palette, sometimes it’s texture, sometimes it’s what isn’t even in the painting. In the popular artist Kenneth Hawkey’s work, the absence of human beings within man-made environments is striking. August 23 – September 4, Hawkey will have his annual one-man show at Larkin Gallery with quiet works that feature the Cape Cod landscape, complete with summer cottages, but devoid of the human figure. In that regard, they remind one of Edward Hopper, even as stylistically they are quite different.

Color takes center stage at the Provincetown Art Association and Museum with the exhibition Color Beyond Description, August 30 – November 3, which features watercolors by the venerable Charles Hawthorne, Hans Hoffman, and Paul Resika, who at 90 years old is still a force to be reckoned with, with great command of his art and a sense of color like no one else. Resika also has a show at Berta Walker Gallery with his wife, photographer Blair Resika, as part of Walker’s Creative Couples season-long concept, August 23 – September 14.

Intense colors permeate the works of Robert Cardinal, while his son Julian’s palette is more earthy. Both artists show at Kiley Court Gallery and will exhibit work together August 23 – September 3, with Julian Cardinal having his own solo show before that, July 5 – 15.

If you are looking for some very summery images to remind you of the sun and fun of this time of year, Stewart Clifford Gallery has a number of artists working with iconic Provincetown and summertime images, some with solo shows, and others incorporated into thematic group shows this season, such as Summer Pleasures, opening this weekend and running through July 10 and featuring Christopher Roddick’s colorful buoy paintings.

Buoys #7 by Christopher Roddick, Stewart Clifford Gallery

Of course, if cityscapes appeal more to you than do the ubiquitous images of the Cape’s extraordinary natural environment, look no further than Kobalt Gallery, where two of the best artists of this subject matter are regularly featured. The ever-popular Sean Flood is showing new work at Kobalt, August 16 – 22. Still industrial in his focus, the work appears to be getting more abstract as time goes on. Meanwhile, Tim Saternow returns with a show of city images that have a distinctive, splotchy, aged-photograph feeling to them, even as they are clearly watercolors. His show, July 5 – 11, is frankly too short to fully appreciate the work, however, one hopes to see more in later group shows.

A unique approach to painting is used by Mark Beard, who adopts different artistic personae with different painting styles for his various series. His work will be on view with monthly shows at Angela Russo Fine Art @ Karilon Gallery, including openings on June 28, July 5, and August 30.

Moby Dick #6 by Paul Resika, Berta Walker Gallery and PAAM

But one of the best things for art lovers visiting Provincetown is the ability to stop into our many artist-run galleries, some of which only show the owner/artist’s work, while others have rotating shows featuring other artists whose work they admire.
In this category, local artist Shirl Roccapriore is among the best. Her own work is absolutely stunning. Whether it’s her vibrant, textural female nudes or her more recent series of bird paintings that depict our avian friends in flight and at rest along the wires overhead, but always with a kinetic energy derived from her strokes. Her own show comes August 23 – September 18, but before then, she features works by exceptional painters Jim Broussard (through June 26) and Christine Sullivan (June 28 – July 24), as well as her annual Family Week Youth Exhibition, featuring the work of an artist —or this year, several artists—under the age of 18, July 26 – August 4.

Departing for the moment from the east side of town, the Whaler’s Wharf mall is frequently host to artist-run spaces that, unfortunately, seem to come and go. But James Frederick has been there for quite a few years now, and has a schedule of exhibitions and opening events showcasing his own work. Best known for his cartoon images (including popular coloring books featuring iconic Provincetown images, as well as adult-themed ones), Frederick also paints in a variety of styles, both abstract and representational.

The other key artist-run gallery on the west end is Adam Peck Gallery. Peck’s spare paintings of small Outer Cape cottages feature clean design, colors that pop, and a delightful simplicity. His work will be featured throughout the season, however, he is also mounting shows by several other artists, including Robert Goldstrom (August 14 – 20), whose warm, summer images are also quite alluring.

While we might think most often of framed pictures when we talk about fine art, galleries in town do not only offer paintings and photography. Sculpture with a variety of materials, assemblage and collage, and the occasional video art and installation work can also be seen around town at most of the galleries already mentioned as well as a few highlighted here.

I Prefer the World Inside My Head by Gay Malin, Hutson Gallery

While the Alden Gallery features painting more than anything else, they also carry work by one of our most consistent assemblage/construction artists, Mike Wright. Her three-dimensional, multimedia works will be on view in a duo exhibition with abstract painter Paul Kelly in a show that promises to be extraordinary, July 26 – August 8.

Last year Cortile Gallery featured almost exclusively “artistic pairings,” shows of two artists at a time paired up to complement one another in any of a variety of ways. This year, there are a few pairings scheduled. A particularly interesting one pairs glass artist Susan Haas with painter Joshua Dean Wiley in a show titled Of Sky & Sea, August 13 – 26. In her artistic statement, Haas says her work utilizes “tools, heat, physics and imagination, to produce a solid piece of beauty that can be held.” These are beautiful pieces difficult to showcase in our two-dimensional space here.

Hutson Gallery always features works by one of the most imaginative bronze sculptors, Gay Malin. This year is no different, and she will present two new sculptures at Hutson July 12 – 25.

And finally, Provincetown artist and activist Jay Critchley always pushes the colony further into the here and now by calling attention to important sociopolitical and environmental issues and also by working in contemporary media such as video and installation work. Fresh from screening his short film Cure for Insomnia at the Provincetown International Film Festival last week, Critchley will be part of a show at AMP Gallery with his Launching the Re-Signing of the Mayflower Compact 2020, June 21 – July 10, and he will also offer a workshop and public lecture at Truro Center for the Arts at Castle Hill at the end of July.

The artists mentioned here are but a tiny fraction of those who offer to all of us visions and impressions that are as truthful and real as any documentary film or newspaper story. Subjectivity is not antithetical to truth, and in fact, it may actually be a requirement of truth, especially in an age of muddled ideas, conflicting facts, and a public yearning for something real in a virtual world.

Provincetown Galleries Mentioned in this Preview:

Adam Peck Gallery • 142 Commercial St. 508.274.8298.
Albert Merola Gallery • 424 Commercial St. 508.487.4424.
Alden Gallery • 423 Commercial St. 508.487.4230.
AMP: Art Market Provincetown • 432 Commercial St. 646.298.9258.
Angela Russo Fine Art at the Karilon Gallery • 447 Commercial St. 617.233.9234.
Bakker Gallery • 359 Commercial St. 508.413.9758.
Berta Walker Gallery • 208 Bradford St. 508.487.6411.
Bowersock Gallery • 373 Commercial St. 508.487.4994.
Cortile Gallery • 230 Commercial St. 508.487.4200.
CUSP Gallery • 115 Bradford St. 323.513.3161.
Egeli Gallery • 382 Commercial St. 508.487.0044.
Fine Arts Work Center Hudson D. Walker Gallery • 24 Pearl St. 508.487.9960.
Frederick Studio Provincetown • Whaler’s Wharf, 237 Commercial St. 508.247.7900.
Gaa Gallery • 494 Commercial St.
Galeria Cubana • 357 Commercial St.
Gary Marotta Fine Art G-1 • 162 Commercial St. 617.834.5262
Hutson Gallery • 432 Commercial St. 508.487.0915.
Julie Heller Gallery • 2 Gosnold St. 508.487.2169.
Kiley Court Gallery • 445 Commercial St. 508.487.4496.
Kobalt Gallery • 366 Commercial St.
Larkin Gallery • 405 Commercial St. 508.487.6111.
Oils by the Sea Roccapriore Gallery • 437 Commercial St. 508.280.1278.
Provincetown Art Association & Museum • 460 Commercial St. 508.487.1750.
Rice/Polak Gallery • 430 Commercial St. 508.487.1052.
Schoolhouse Gallery • 494 Commercial St. 508.487.4800.
Stewart Clifford Gallery • 338 Commercial St. 508.487.0451.
Studio Lacombe • Whaler’s Wharf, 237 Commercial St., 2nd Fl. 202.460.6826.

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Ginger Mountain (MS Communications Media, BA Fine Arts/Teaching Certification K-12) has been part of the graphic design team at Provincetown Magazine since 2008. Ginger has worked as a creative director, individual contractor, and freelance designer with clients representing many areas —business software, consumer products, professional services, entertainment, and network hardware to name just a few — providing creative layout and development of a wide range of print media content. Her clients ranged from small local businesses to large corporations and Fortune 500 companies, from New Hampshire to Georgia

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