New and Hot North Carolina, Lee Hansley Gallery's recently opened show, sets out to discover and present important, young artistic talent in North Carolina--a worthy and ambitious undertaking for a commercial gallery. After choosing seven emerging artists of merit (ages 21 to 35, who were born, educated or who live in North Carolina) whose work he knew, Hansley contacted art departments around the state and sent out a statewide call for entries. The resulting selection of 99 works by 39 artists easily rivals, even supersedes, results of local juried shows in its high degree of quality and variety.
Artists trained in East Carolina University's art program, six of whom are included in the show, demonstrate a strong tradition of representational rendering that gives the show an immediate stamp of merit. Hansley's survey embraces modes of abstraction, unexpectedly funky mixed media and even a video installation/tableau with equal commitment.
Ceramic artist Meredith Brickell, who resides in Raleigh, is one of Hansley's invitees. She has already been showing a consistently fine body of works in Raleigh venues, including Crocker's Mark Gallery, where her pieces are concurrently on display, paired with paintings by Sarah Powers. Brickell is represented here by three vessel shapes reminiscent of canoes. Their exaggerated elongation creates a unique profile, unusual in the genre's canon. In "Unfold" and "Waterline," visible finger marks dappling the exterior surface contrast with silky interiors, and in "Vessel," traces of the hand give way to a unity of streamlined form, both interior and exterior. Testament to her talent, Brickell has been invited to teach at Penland School of Crafts this fall.
Ahmad Sabha makes clay forms based on the motif of a water tower, meticulously stacking small coils in his Yellow Water Tower series. Capped by a conical "roof," these closed forms are presented on cast concrete bases.
A set of shino wares in the Japanese tradition is presented by Gillian Parke, embodying the aesthetic of "wabi," or unstudied irregularity, that is so prized. There is an organic quality to the shapes and freedom in the effects of materials, which include coarse feldspar and molochite added to the clay to give an irregular pearly, pebbled surface finish.
Hayley Kyle was a pick in the North Carolina Museum of Art's Crosscurrents show last fall. She appears here with four characteristic small, square, layered, atmospheric abstractions.
Mary Shannon Johnstone's work has been featured in recent area shows, where she has won juror's awards. Her Silent Home series chronicles transitional moments in the life of a family, as in "Mom at Christmas," in which a woman in profile holds her bowed head in her hands. The blurry focus conveys emotional intensity, a moment in which the subject hides her face from the camera.
Rather unexpectedly, the combinations of corroding metal and slick photography handsomely combine in Jonathan Courtland's lightboxes that frame richly colored slides--in this case, found ones.
Ana Ayala Melendez's flowing monochromatic, biomorphic abstractions on paper present a counterpoint to Ashlyn Browning's energetic marks and knotted lines. Browning is represented by the gallery and has had several shows over the past year, including at Artspace, and is currently on view in a solo exhibition at the Durham Art Guild.
Laura McCarthy's "Brown Paper Vessels," varying sizes of paper bags coated in latex, are affixed to a wall surface so that they resemble a configuration of growing coral. Lia Newman's "Root with Seed" takes the art off the wall, with twine, plaster, iron oxide and hair hanging dramatically from floor to ceiling, invoking the spirit of installation artist Eva Hesse. Robb Dammon's "Khaki Under an Umbrella" makes playful use of printing on a fabric's selvage and trimmings from pants legs to allude to modern abstraction through the traditional medium of pieced fabric quilts, made of necessity in the past with worn-out clothing or saved scraps.
The center of one room in the gallery is given over to an easy chair positioned in front of a television, set on top of another television covered in angel knickknacks, that plays a video of a woman watching television in a humble home environment. Combined with the table by the chair, a plastic cup with a straw and a pill placed on a napkin, these props are enough to powerfully conjure the narrative of chronic illness in "Watching Mom," created by artist Gina Gibson, a recent MFA graduate from UNC-Greensboro.
Jacob Kincheloe and James Gage Burkhart's convincingly realized etching and aquatint "The Death of Marat" plays a witty art-historical insider's joke, while Nathaniel Underwood's lovely oils limn the light-infused, spare interiors of the white art studio, punctuated by props of primary colors.
New and Hot proves Hansley's curatorial acumen, satisfies those following artists who are in the process of establishing their Triangle careers, and introduces enough emerging artists from outside our area to enliven this top-flight mix.
Lee Hansley Gallery is located at 225 Glenwood Ave. in Raleigh; call 828-7557 or visit www.leehansleygallery.com. The exhibit continues through Aug. 19.