Gallery RIVAA Starts Year 14 in Crisis

by David Stone

The Roosevelt Island Visual Arts Association is heralding the start of spring with its annual Vernissage, the first group show of the new year, at its 527 Main Street gallery. Vernissage XIV features artwork from a diverse collection of both new and established members.

But this year, the opening reception was marked by “dire” warnings about why it might be the last, at least in this location. More about that later.

First the Art

New-member highlights include examples of “color on hanji” images by Eunkyoung Park. Hanji is a traditional paper handmade from tree bark in Korea. In Once Upon a Color Muk and Once Upon a Black Muk, Park delivers naturalist imagery with wheels of snails and lizards surrounding butterflies.

Nearby, Alexander Movshovich again delivers with his fine art photographer’s insight with Crooked Reality. Glass bottles mysteriously distort sunlight passing through them in color and form. More realistically precise are Anne Marie Dannenberg’s black and white appreciations of New York City architecture. Her glass towers are limited to interactions among themselves, without earthly connections.

Marta Angel, who is from Colombia, uses saturated oils for Sierra Nevada (on canvas) and Sunday Girl (on eight wooden blocks). The former is a beautiful abstract with earthy tones vibrating to create a background for sketchy suggestions of landscape, the latter an emotional portrait suggestive of a waking dream.

Although she steps off in a new direction in a set of paintings expressing graphic designs, Toshiko Kitano Groner reasserts her passion for the rich color of oils on canvas. Each group show, Groner displays a new angle on her emerging talent as an artist. This time, it’s Blocks, a set of related op art images.

Dedicated to Marco is Valeriu Boborelu’s large canvas contribution to this Vernissage. Using only black and white in virtuoso strokes of acrylic, he creates an intimate universe of symbols. Look carefully and you find subtle images flirting with realism and representing the spirits of beloved companions.

Continuing his recent expansion of visual technique, Anthony Moran adds three watercolor photos. Watercolor photography involves digitally enhancing photographs in a way that yields thinner brushstroke effects, making new art out of everyday images. Moran’s most graceful picture is Glen Cove, where autumn colors melt toward the shore of Long Island Sound.

Kate Oh Trabulsi chose mulberry paper, from the same source as hanji noted above, for Sun, Moon and Five Peaks, a lyrical ink drawing capturing the multiple modulations of motion and time in nature. In a small, masterful work, waterfalls leak between mountains into rivers, and trees glow red as they reach into the landscape.

As always, pastel master Georgette Sinclair contributes a group of subtly observed landscapes. Pastels soften the focus. In Morning Golden Light, Tuscany, Sinclair shows how light blends with the open fields to suggest times long past, still preserved and artfully appreciated.

From visiting artist Yun Hung Yi, we see the jumbled, intersecting surfaces of Tattoos, an oil painting on canvas that swells from edge to edge with vibrancy. Without ever representing anything, the excited symbols suggest a universe of activity.

Two final visual highlights help make this one of RIVAA’s best exhibits. The most radiant is Ioan Popoiu’s nine-panel acrylic playfully titled Raining Cats and Dogs. Grouped together in a nine-foot by nine-foot square, each panel employees a flurry of Popoiu’s familiar tentacled entities, seemingly swept by wind or gravity across abstract backgrounds. The colors are bright and optimistic, creating a painting any art lover will appreciate for its virtuoso manipulation of contrast.

The second highlight is smaller, more realistic and sentimental. Among several images submitted for this show, Piotr Olszewski’s small shadowbox, Sadness, begins with a woman’s downturned visage, her blonde hair accented with a drawn spray of yellow and red lines. Her gaze turns in the direction of a pagoda in the foreground. Whether from memories of another time or in mourning, the woman’s sorrow is perfectly expressed.

Vernissage XIV at RIVAA’s 527 Main Street gallery will run until April 19. Hours for what might be the group’s final exhibit at Gallery RIVAA are Wednesdays and Fridays from 6:00 to 9:00 and weekends from 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Dire Straits

An hour after the start of the opening reception on Saturday, March 21, RIVAA president Tad Sudol called all visitors and artists to attention for his usual announcements. But this year, his praise for and thanks to the artists and art lovers took a dramatic turn downward.

“It’s no secret that we’ve been closed for the last six weeks,” he began.

In recent years, with the outsourcing or commercial real estate management by RIOC to Hudson/Related, things have changed for community arts organizations on Roosevelt Island. Recognized for their contributions to civic life with space to run their operations, nonprofit groups based on dance, theatre and visual arts long played a visible role in defining Main Street. With the handoff to Hudson/Related, however, the organizations have been asked to pay the same rent and utility costs as their commercial neighbors, without the same resources to raise funds.

After struggling for survival throughout 2014, RIVAA is, according to Sudol, in “dire straits.” Telling the gathering that he has hopes for help from RIRA and RIOC and asking for individual support to save the gallery, he drew gasps from his audience with an alternative vision of the future, suggesting that very soon, Islanders might see a Texas Steakhouse where the RIVAA Gallery now sits.

Art at The Octagon

A Piaskowski solo exhibit, Blooms, continues at The Octagon.

Ringing the gallery is a collection of photographs illustrating “the silent beauty in the life of a flower,” taking a flower from bloom until it fades toward death. The artwork relates to a poem, also by the artist.

Look at the flower across the room
Standing in the wind alone,
Quickly, quickly watch it bloom
For soon it will be gone.

The exhibit is inspired by Sogetsu, a modern style of Japanese floral art with Buddhist origins. She studied the technique in Kyoto and gained a lifelong appreciation of flower arrangements, however simple or elaborate.

Piaskowski has added visual poetry to her earlier creation in words.

Bloom can be enjoyed at the Octagon Gallery in the lobby at 888 Main Street. It will run until April 19 with open hours from 9:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. every day.

Tags: RIVAA David Stone

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