Anthony Stellaccio & Mary Armstrong - May 2012
Friday May 18th - June 30th, 2012
Cross MacKenzie Gallery to pleased to present an exhibition of ceramics by Anthony Stellaccio and paintings by Mary Armstrong.
Anthony Stellaccio’s approach to his practice is most serious – though he plays with toys. Fulbright Fellow and writer, Stellaccio’s his new book “Lithuanian Folk Ceramics; Inside and Out” was published last year, and his day job is as a Curatorial Research Specialist for the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African Art. Though equally scholarly in his approach to his ceramics, his clay work express a more playful side, referencing children’s play things, game pieces, pets and domesticated animals. Stellaccio’s extensive travels and studies of other cultures, have been synthesized into his sculpture through the universal language of toys.
This body of work is full of dynamic contrasts, rough, un-polished porcelain with cracked glazes atop smooth, reflective black and white Formica pedestal-like bases. The artist’s process also informs his work. Achieving the level of pristine finish in the modern material of Formica requires exacting attention to detail and serious precision. Just the opposite is his approach to man’s most ancient material, clay. He applies traditional rudimentary brick making techniques to the clay, purposefully limiting his modeling – playing a game with himself, making up the rules of manipulation. Often the clay is left with a deliberate hand-hewn finish underlining the difference and drawing attention to the significance of the materials. The supports are of a grand furniture scale, often echoing the shape of the tiny figurines on top and signifying their importance.
Recently, the artist has added color to his ceramic forms, adding yet another reference to the brightly hued toys one finds in our modern western culture. It is the viewer’s visual pleasure to play with Stellaccio’s toys.
The color in Mary Armstrong’s paintings, resonates with Stellaccio’s fresh new green glazes and compliments the three-dimensional, hard edged sculpture in the gallery. Armstrong’s soft paintings hover between landscapes and atmosphere, shifting back and forth from a view of a distant horizon to the drifting particles of dust and clouds in the air. They are beautiful, her palette delicate and harmonious – Armstrong is a true colorist. She studies Bonnard’s hot pinks and the light filled Impressionists, but her paintings have a contemporary sensibility. Armstrong scratches through her luscious wax and oils on panel to reveal hyped-up color from underneath, then layering over that, she draws, dabs and obscures any straight perspective – floating amongst the layers. Her titles suggest her sense of the in-between too, “Any Given Moment”, Near Here” keep the places from being pinned down, specific and particular. The paintings look like the out-of-focus space beyond the airplane window while traveling long distances, that time and place where one can’t do anything else or be anywhere else, when one is literally suspended in air and time and perfectly content. I am drawn to this beautiful, dreamy, nowhere, world she has created.