At Gallery RIVAA, Vernissage XV

Some art exhibits are so rich with wonders that any attempt at an overview must begin with an apology. Vernissage XV, the Roosevelt Island Visual Art Association’s fifteenth annual season opening, is one such show.

This writer apologizes: there is so much great artwork now on the walls at Gallery RIVAA, 527 Main Street, that there is not enough space to mention every work that deserves mentioning. I’ll start you off with a few highlights and leave it to you go to the gallery and finish the discovery.

As soon as you walk in from the street, your eyes are likely to fix on Ioan Popoiu’s large, ravishing untitled acrylic on canvas. Excited reds and yellows make an expressionist grid that holds in place serpentine threads of blue and white, smearing slightly where they intersect.

Expressionist art is not supposed to be “about” anything. It’s a difficult concept to grasp, even for art lovers, but here, Popoiu makes it easy to accept. When a painting is this exciting, it doesn’t matter what it is or isn’t “about.” It is just its own visual thrill.

After that great start comes this show’s big surprise. RIVAA’s youngest member, two and one-half year old Olivia Sinclair, presents her first public artwork, a traditional rocking chair decorated with her brush, then mounted like a bucolic throne on a wood block.

In creating this surprisingly well-realized piece, Ms. Sinclair had help. She is a student of master painter Valeriu Boborelu, and her grandmother, pastelist Georgette Sinclair, lends a hand. The inspiration, though, is all Olivia’s.

Not to be outdone, her grandmother has four paintings nearby. Each shows her skill at capturing subtle variations in unspoiled country landscapes, but By the Pond, a winter scene that discovers lyricism in ice, snow and leafless trees, may be the best.

Next up, Marius Mitroiu’s group of oils on wood includes Foot & Mouth Disease which, like its companions, seems to spring from both Salvatore Dali’s and Yves Tanguy’s imaginations with a pinch of Joan Miró mixed in. If you like your expressionism freaky and flavored with paranoid nightmares – and many art lovers do – Mitroiu’s paintings will reward you with inventiveness with a humanizing touch of humor.

Tadeusz Sudol’s contributions to RIVAA exhibits always make a point of his flair for new ways of making a statement. This year, he contributes Calypso and Odysseus, thematically different pictures that look like twins. After creating images with a limited brown and black palette of inks, Sudol digitizes them and blows them up into prints, exposing delicate tracings of ink that would not otherwise be as dramatic.

Adding to his work with Olivia Sinclair, Valeriu Boborelu presents two dissimilar works, both worth mentioning. The Mind of Clear-Magenta Light is the kind of large and vivid acrylic on canvas for which Boborelu is known. As a mature artist, he normally stays within his own creative corral, producing variations on spiritual themes. Here, the spiritual dimension is a passionate furnace of red and yellow that seems too hot to touch.

Surprising then, is his black and white drawing, Toward Enlightenment. The large-scale work is a kind of family portrait. Stylized images of the artist’s wife, grandson and his beloved dog, Max, among others, are parked in rectangular portrait spaces that abut others filled with constructions never quite coalescing into beings. Boborelu’s universe has a personal frame of realism.

More gentle and affecting is Edel Stuehmke’s untitled oil painting. What looks like streams of black rain run down a port of muted colors while brighter tones are being shuffled off the right side of the canvas. Stuehmke does not produce large volumes of paintings, but every one she shows is fully realized and memorable, like perfectly captured moments in time.

By contrast, Deepti Shukla returns to Gallery RIVAA with four detailed acrylics staged as a quartet. In her previous work, Shukla’s gift for intricate design was evident. An emerging talent, her newest works add electricity to the eye-catching beauty. In Untitled #2, strokes of white and deep red dance vigorously across the surface.

Another painter, whose style has become recognizable for the way she uses sturdy, barefoot women from a mythical Mediterranean past to create visual harmonies, improves on her impressive body of work with an unexpected flourish. Laura Hussey links her Greek beauties with a deeper past by adding an effect with her oils that reminds viewers of deteriorating ancient mosaics. Time has stripped patches of tiles from some sections while leaving others intact. The effect is penetrating with its streams of history holding on to values that cannot be completely erased.

Diversity is a RIVAA hallmark as we see in Rachel Garrick’s Blue Havoc. Shades of blue seem to struggle to break free of each other in an element tightly bound at the center of an otherwise cheerful canvas.

Nearby, Piaskowski’s skills with a camera are aided by her painter’s eye in a sequence of Sunset Over the Catskills pictures. Each gathers abundant colors of light streaming over the mountaintops and merges them as if they are accumulating inside her lens. It makes a good marriage of visual arts.

Hanne Støvring continues her impressive run of acrylics on canvas with three paintings that expand her expressions of communal connection. In Together Is a Good Place to Be, a narrative is offered in layers of presence. In an impossibly perfect sea of gentle colors, a contemplative figure is watched over by hovering figures who themselves are seen in a larger familial context. Viewers may find their own embracing story in each of Støvring’s lovely works.

Dan Nistor, who will be opening a solo show at the Octagon Gallery this weekend (see details below), contributes three oils. Most striking is Smiling Model, which does its work with as limited a palette as possible, whites, grays and black only, by focusing intensely on the composition. Details would be reduced by color.

Closing out with some playfulness, Constance Tanner offers House and Jezabelle, two works related only by their sense of fun. Wood and tissue paper are manipulated to produce a miniature Victorian home, filigreed with details and offering a welcoming girl sketched onto the front beneath the highest portal. House escapes being a place for dolls when it takes off into fantasy.

And finally, Jezabelle, a three piece oil painting, tempts you with a shapely figure in a very short skirt, a glass of wine in her hand and a melancholy look on her face. Tanner uses her gift for color to make this instant narrative into an artful composition, playing blues and reds off an intense, black background.

Jezabelle is waiting.

Vernissage XV will fill the 527 Main Street gallery until April 3. Opening hours are Tuesdays and Thursdays from 1:00 to 5:00 pm, Wednesdays and Fridays from 6:00 to 9:00 pm and weekends from 11:00 am to 5:00 pm. Admission is free. Donations are accepted.

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Dan Nistor’s solo exhibit, atelier, opened at the Octagon Gallery, 888 Main Street on March 12. An opening reception is scheduled for March 26 from 6:00 to 9:00 pm. The public is invited.

Tags: RIVAA Art Reviews entertainment David Stone

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