Controlled Capriciousness in 2-D and 3-D
Emphatic whimsies are on display at two separate, unrelated exhibitions in Groton, Mass. “Past, Present, Paper,” at the Conant Gallery is a group exhibition presenting skillfully crafted collage arrangements in mixed-media by four New Hampshire-based artists: Soosen Dunholter, Jane El Simpson, Vivienne Strauss and Margaret Baker. “Less the Distance,” at the de Menil Gallery, is a site-specific, immersive style, kinetic installation by Laura Hughes who lives and exhibits regularly in Portland, OR.
While these two exhibitions were not organized in collaboration with one another, they do share a common theme: contemplative and amusing messages presented gently in the form of constructions that explore spatial relationships, borrowing ideas from sculptural method. On view are two- and three-dimensional examples of what can be done with newly fabricated, handmade or found castoff and antique materials that have been altered, deconstructed and rebuilt into modest and quiet expressions. Because of the overall soft color palette (subtle tonalities) and lightweight and minimal forms of assemblage, both exhibitions impart an easygoing mood.
The collages, paintings, prints, and mobiles presented in “Past, Present, Paper” are described by exhibition curator Laurie McGowan as “unassuming compositions” that are timeless “visual poems and vignettes, haikus and stories” layering past and present. As an exhibition, it is solid in presentation and organization. Most of the works on display are tightly controlled creations: elegant, balanced and clean. What’s important about this show is that the artists display more than one series from their vast bodies of work, showing off their creative diversity.