ART LEAGUE OF RHODE ISLAND: 18TH ANNUAL ELECTED MEMBERS ART EXHIBITION
BRISTOL ART MUSEUM
10 WARDWELL STREET
BRISTOL, RHODE ISLAND
By J. Fatima Martins
A landscape of calm, with bursts of intellectualism and touches of emotive storm, is what you’ll find at Bristol Art Museum (BAM) in the 18th Annual Elected Members Art Exhibition organized by the Art League Rhode Island (ALRI). The overall tone of the exhibition is comfort, beauty, and subtle quiet acts of rebellion. There are elegance and charm as well as mystery and engagement. What I liked most about this exhibition is that it pulled me out of my general feeling of cynicism. Art, in a beautiful light-filled gallery space, such as the one offered at BAM, gives us an opportunity for intermission and relief away from the harm we receive daily from the world around us.
There are many amusing and skilled works, with Alice Benvie Gebhart’s glass wall-sculpture landscape “The Future is Bright” and Krzysztof Mathews’ robot portrait, “Hold the Line,” being favorites among exhibition organizers. As expected, the exhibition offers diversity in subject and materials ranging from work showing local interest — like the photograph “Town Beach” by David DeMelim — to more patient and introspective works, such as “Floral Pattern,” an example of book art by Carol Strause FitzSimonds, and experiments with new media, including Kristie Gardiner’s “CCRI 2017 Chosen,” a light-box photograph exploring minimalism and the dynamics of space. There’s also stylistic contrast. You’ll find a glamorous realist portrait of a drag queen, “South Beach Drag Queen, Miss Noel Leon at the Palace,” by William Heydt, and abstract and physical paintings, like my personal favorite, “Constrained,” by Ken Steinkamp.
Steinkamp’s mixed-media, abstracted line drawing and painting on multiple layered panels of wood framed in metal deserves attention. It may be the best in the show. Steinkamp makes abstracts that are bursting with energy. In each mark, the viewer can read and feel his process. We have an idea of the tough tools he’s using and the way his body moves to create the composition. The expressive flowing marks are beautifully raw and textured. But, in spite of its beauty, “Constrained” has a problem. In this exhibition, in a gallery filled with bombastic bright colors and light, it’s somewhat lost and overlooked due to its subdued color arrangement — it’s gray, white and silver in tone. The first time I noticed Steinkamp was a few years ago at Hera Gallery in Wakefield, Rhode Island, and it’s a pleasure to see and examine his work again at BAM. His paintings are a lot more complex than they appear at first glance. Steinkamp is definitely an artist to keep watching and to look for in other regional and, hope- fully, national exhibitions.