"Night & Day" review

Galerie Hertz is brimming with scenes of black skies enlivened by the glowing lights of civilization and playful miniature worlds comprised from curios of the past. “Night and Day” is a two-person exhibition containing paintings by Tom Pfannerstill and assemblages by Caroline Waite. On the surface, the exhibition title can be inferred as a literal contrast of dark and light. Metaphorically it may allude to the stark differences between the two bodies of work: painting vs. sculpture; micro vs. macro, materialization by adding pigment to a blank surface vs. assembling found objects into something greater than its constituent parts; capturing a moment from the natural world vs. creation of new worlds from the artist’s imagination.

“Night and Day” features a new body of work depicting images of darkness illuminated by passing cars, bustling cities, and the omnipresent moon. Many of these acrylic paintings boast a precise depiction of illuminated cityscapes, as in “Black #3: On the Way to NY #2 (City Lights).” At a glance this work is rendered with near photographic accuracy, but upon closer inspection we clearly see the artist’s hand in the work through visible brush strokes and carefully placed color. The artist has a masterful ability to accurately depict the essence of light while maintaining the integrity of artistic expression and craftsmanship.

“Black #21 Arrivals (Galt House from Above)” hones our focus to a closer view of urban nightlife. The composition is starkly framed with an obstructing dark structure in the foreground, providing increased emphasis on the happenings below. Visitors toting luggage move toward the glowing hotel interior as they leave the headlights behind them. The artist’s use of sharp angles and dynamic composition brings to mind 20th century photographer, André Kertész (for example, Kertész’s “Man Reading between two Trees, 1963”). Pfannerstill’s “Black #26 I-64 Downtown” also features a modernist compositional arrangement. Three lone cars travel in the same direction; a soft glow of headlights lead each one. The expressway is well-lit with overhead street lights. This work combines an interesting juxtaposition of control and chance; the hard edge lines and careful brushstrokes add contrast against the apparent randomness of splattered paint upon the road below. Of course this playfulness with the medium doesn’t appear to have been arbitrary, as it achieves the appearance of grainy image noise often found in digital photography.

“Ali Center and River West” depicts the downtown Louisville riverside with passing cars on a well lit free way. The road curves into the distance and the twinkling multitude of lights echo the river’s bend, reflections in the black water, and the faint glimmer of the moon overhead. Glowing lights suggest activity and life; cities no longer sleep. These paintings shed light, so to speak, on the glowing effects our modern world has on nature’s darkness. They reflect our current era of constant illumination. While a select few works feature the moon, there are virtually no stars shown. Light pollution prevents city-dwellers from seeing the same night sky as those in rural areas. The light glowing within Pfannerstill’s paintings are primarily artificial as a result of human encroachment. While a beautiful display of the modern world, the works also serve as a reminder of urbanization and light pollution.

Tom Pfannerstill’s recent body of work gives the viewer a macro view of civilization, while Caroline Waite explores the micro through a playful series of imaginative creatures and miniature realms. Many of her works are rooted in the theme of entomology. At a glance the works read as purely scientific specimen drawers cataloguing an array of winged insects. One then becomes aware of the single, staring doll’s eye returning the gaze of the viewer. While several of these critters are displayed individually, “Miraculous Discoveries” houses 25 insects within a large display case. The title may hint at what is to come when the viewer peers closer at the creatures pinned behind the glass. These sci-fi creations are even more impressive upon further inspection. In doing so, one will discover the lack of paint used to build the intricate surface of the bugs. Each creature is tediously crafted using only found paper and collaged materials. In the center of the display “Praying Mantis” is a prime example of the artist’s attention to detail and tedious creation on the minute scale. Even including the spiky tibia spines with carefully cut paper.

The artist’s subject matter isn’t limited to whimsical versions of familiar insects. Waite explores the human condition as well. A row of nude women smile coyly at the viewer. The same face belongs to each woman, but there are slight individual differences such as hair style, lip color, or jewelry. Magnifying glasses focus on these paper doll-like, anatomical figures in a way that reads as commentary on societal standards of appearance and the homogenization of beauty.

Caroline Waite shares sensibilities and similarities with modern assemblage artist, Joseph Cornell. He, too, collected mementos and juxtaposed them in new ways. Waite’s “Scene Unseen” is a collection of various items presented in a linear fashion bearing resemblance to a comic strip. A watchful eye carefully peeks through a teal, floral pattern and passed a vintage drafting tool holding a brassy floral bauble. The viewer is invited to closely peer through ivory panels upon a pastoral scene of cow and calf, only to find an imposter that is the mother cow bearing the head of a wolf. The center of the work features a tiny baby doll covered in foliage and verdant pattern. The mysterious implied narrative of in these works elevate them beyond simply decorative. The individual components come together in a way that reflects a connecting theme of camouflage and concealment.

While the individual bodies of work are nearly opposite, as suggested by the exhibition title, works by Caroline Waite and Tom Pfannerstill contrast and complement each other quite well. “Night and Day” is well worth the visit to behold two artists bearing clear and imaginative creative visions.

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