CONNECTICUT ART SCENE

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The City Lights Gallery exhibition featuring works relating to Bridgeport--past, present and future, drew a large and appreciative crowd.

January 16, 2005 - THE SOUTHWESTERN CONNECTICUT ART SCENE, INCLUDING INVADERS FROM BROOKLYN

    I managed to attend three openings in the past week or so.
From last to first, they were the City Lights Gallery show focusing on Bridgeport, the Blackrock Arts Center show featuring local artists selected by other artists who acted as curators, and the Westport Arts Center show of contemporary Brooklyn artists.
    As the last shall be first, according to the biblical presecription, the City Lights Gallery should be discussed first. One walks into the gallery, located in the heart of downtown Bridgeport literally a stone's throw from the P.T. Barnam Museum, and a large canvas to the right immediately galvanizes the visitor's attention. Being one of the first to arrive, I was able to get a good look of many of the works before a very large and unruly (just kidding) crowd materialized. My guess is that there were at least a hundred people ambling about the limited gallery space at any one time, By age they were, by all appearances, somewhere between forty and seventy. One wonders whether the same age range attended openings for cave painters of the Neolithic period. Do you not think that they had art openings?   Well, I'm drifting off the topic.
    As I was saying, the large canvas of a man ordering a cup of coffee and a cake of some kind from a Deli, being as large as it was and of soft and captivating coloration and thematic substance, seemed to be an immediate attention getter. A close examination revealed that the work was titled "Leon, coffee and a corn muffin" by Suzanne Kachmar, who had a number of other canvases on the same wall, mostly scenes of Bridgeport, although one medium-sized canvas portrayed the reflection of a woman in a mirror surrounded by momentos of her past. All of these works were quite good, the coloration soft but tactile and the brush strokes bold and impressionistic.
    In an adjoining exhibition space, Lou Trespasso was showing some remarkable vignettes of Bridgeport from the 1930s to the 1950s. These were apparently taken from photographs, but Trespasso adds so much of his own zest and enthusiasm that the sterility which sometimes accompanies the former medium was left in the dust, while the images themselves were ressurected in sensitively colored but vivid street scenes. These canvases alone would be reason to see the show. Another master of city scapes was Tom Brenner, whose renderings, one of a bridge with soft but striking reds and oranges, bordered on pastel in tone, even though they were in acrylic. Of course there were many other worthy works of art to be seen, but time did not permit me a close examination of these. One other item did strike me, a piece of pottery with a ribbon like decoration down the side, cream colored with a yellowish hue, if my memory serves me. It was a delightful piece and certainly one that I would have added to my collection if time and finances permitted.

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Jeff Becker, photographer, stands between Carolina Guimarey, left, and Susan Breen, two artist/curators, at the Blackrock Arts Center in Bridgeport during an opening for a show featuring artists selected by artists.  
   
    The Blackrock Arts Center, on Fairfield Avenue in the west-most neighborhood in Bridgeport that goes by the same name, suffers from a rather unusual architecture. The front entrance is quite visible, but is no longer used, and one must figure out how to find the back entrance, whether it is to the right or the left. Well, it is to the right, for the benefit of future attendees of events there. Like any native New Yorker, I was a bit agitated over leaving my car parked on the street, and felt compelled to check it in the middle of my visit to make sure it was still there, and that the windows were intact and hadn't been bashed in. Once inside, the warm, friendly and spacious atmosphere of the center, accompanied by judicious use of the space, made for pleasant viewing, Most striking was the work of Rick Molina, whose paintings have a strong mystical thread, and are painted in a hue resembling blazing sunlight, but in tones soft enough to save the viewer from burning his or her eyes. The mystical element is overtly expressed in his largest canvas on exhibition, titled "The Apostles." Bodies seem to emerge and withdraw behind the golden light, as is the case in many of his works, all of which contain the human figure in some form. One is reminded of Gauguin, Renoir and even the American William Glackens.
    Now for the invaders from Brooklyn. Before arriving at the Westport Arts Center, I ran into Lauren and Ben on the street. They directed me to the center, even though they were from Brooklyn, and I was from Connecticut. Lauren was, as it turned out, Lauren Lutoff, one of the exhibitors in the "Brooklyn" show, which features the works of 22 active Brookyn artists, many of these represented by galleries. Lutoff's work consists of paintings on bedsheets. One of these is an irregularly shaped canvas, which, if you feel that square is a bit overdone, was a relief. The idea of using bedsheets is creative, although I cannot vouch for its originality. Her second work consisted of two of these bedsheets, the first filled with holes through which one could view the second parallel sheet and the scriblings underneath. All was tilted askew, and left me with an unfinished and slightly seasick feeling. My first reaction to the work was that Lutoff needed to change her launderer, what with all those holes in the sheets. I have not yet had a second reaction, although Lutoff herself is as pleasant a person as one would want to meet. Perhaps if I have time to view the work again on Sunday, February 5 at 3 p.m., when the show's curator, Amy Simon, conducts a tour in the company of many of the participating artists, I may form a different impression of Lutoff's work.
    A photographer friend, Jeff Becker, who hails from Connecticut, expressed a certain measure of discomfort in reaction to the Brooklyn invasion. But one wonders whether he would have felt the same had he known of a show in Brooklyn that featured only Connecticut artists. Of course these georgraphic distinctions, while sometimes helpful, are not always applicable, as artists often wander from state to state during the span of their careers. Still it is nice to have a little interaction with artists from the other side of the Long Island Sound.