"Of & About Clay and Painting" Review

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Prehistoric humans utilized clay and painting, making the techniques prominent in human culture for many centuries. Both tactile and malleable, these mediums continue to allow for much artistic expression made by the artists’ own hands. Clay and painting are ever prevalent within today’s art world as the possibilities are explored, revitalized, and re-imagined. The current exhibit at Galerie Hertz offers a fresh and contemporary take on these two earliest art forms.

Upon entering the gallery, one is met by a colorfully vibrant array of paintings and sculptures by eightdifferent artists. Perched along one wall are figurative terra cotta sculptures by Tom Bartel. Some are disembodied heads, while others are full figures lacking limbs. Bartel achieves the grotesque with a touch of dark humor. “Small Head with Red Nose” is the head of a man who looks deliberately tattered both physically and mentally. The deep lines and mossy green cracks on the face echo the weary gaze through the subject’s eyes. Despite these details suggesting deterioration, the colors and textures are stunning. Of course, Tom Bartel lightens the mood a bit by adding a shiny red clown nose and a touch of light blue to the eyelids. There is also a line across the head to differentiate the subject’s mask from the skin, though ever so subtle. The work of Tom Bartel brings to mind that of Robert Arneson, an artist who helped people view ceramics beyond a functional craft. Arneson also employed delightfully dark absurdity into his ceramic busts.

Another clay artist on view is Angela Curreri. Her sculptures are bold, bright, and energetic. This playful, graphic liveliness visible in her work calls to mind the work of graffiti and pop artist, Keith Haring. While Haring primarily worked two-dimensionally, Curreri’s works are sculptures in the round and should be viewed from all angles. “Watchful Eye Shrine,” for example, shows equal detail and attention given to all possible views. A yellow hand with a single eye and red fingertips reaches out from a small platform. The platform is raised with 4 green and yellow striped legs. Both the upward motion of the hand and the small red ladder reaching with it, the viewer’s eye is lifted upward. Upon observing the other side of the piece, the viewer is met by a heart symbol surrounded by radiant sun rays. Also like much of the work of Keith Haring, Curreri’s work evokes a sense of optimism and delight.

The paintings in this exhibition are very much about the paint as medium. One painter in particular, Evan Fugazzi, presents this idea and also holds compositional arrangement, color, and form at a high place of importance. “A Mild Fear of Dying”​​

is reminiscent of Arschile Gorky’s “Waterfall (1943).” Almost representational, while still remaining completely abstract, one’s eye bounces from color to shape. The viewer is invited to take in the sumptuous color palette and textures coming together to celebrate the medium of paint both in the final product and its application. Evan Fugazzi achieves incredible painterly layering which creates much depth in his work. His great understanding of color theory and composition is evident in the way he commands so much life and movement into completely non-representational abstract works. While his paintings are incredibly expressive, they are void of the violent emotions seen in Abstract Expressionists such as Willem De Kooning and Jackson Pollock. Fugazzi brings a sense of calm harmony to the canvas, while remaining dynamic and vibrant.

Clay and painting are archaic forms of art-making, and are still incredibly relevant and significant in the art of the 21st century. These tangible mediums require the hands and visions of the artist to transform them into vehicles of thought, communication, and expression. Of & AboutClay and Painting is a refreshing celebration of these art forms. The show is attention-grabbing while inviting the viewer to stay, explore, and enjoy.

Galerie Hertz 1253 S. Preston St.

Louisville, KY 502-581-8277

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