Two different spaces, two good shows

Jul. 10, 2014 @ 11:31 AM

“In Pursuit of Shadows:  Sculptures by Christopher Kearney,” Scrap Exchange,
923 Franklin St., Durham. Exhibit on view through Saturday.

“Ippy Patterson, Leigh Suggs:  Vignettes of Modern Furnishings,” Light Art + Design,”
601 W. Rosemary St., Chapel Hill. Exhibit on view through Saturday.

Two shows as different from each other as found objects are from archival papers ordered from Japan are about to close. At the Scrap Exchange are the small tabletop sculptures by Christopher Kearney. At Light Art + Design are works on paper by Ippy Patterson and Leigh Suggs. Check them out if you can. In any event not only is the art a treat, but each gallery has important business news to report.
The Scrap Exchange, which moved from Liberty Warehouse a few years ago to a building next to Golden Belt, has found a permanent home. In August, it will move its tons of scrap materials to a building the organization bought in Lakewood Shopping Center. Although not happy about all the physical labor in store, every person in the place was excited the journey was to their own building.
Light’s problems are different but no less challenging. Cindy Spuria, a professional interior designer in Carrboro, opened Light in 2010 in Chapel Hill’s Greenbridge Building, a mixed-use combination of condos and commercial businesses. According to Sarah Elbetri, gallery manager, the mission of Light is to show works from local artists and innovative furnishings based on fine craftsmanship, contemporary design and commitment to a more sustainable future. In the years since 2010, however, the building has had financial difficulties and went into bankruptcy, but Light held on. Now, she said, there are new owners; more condos have sold and new businesses are signing leases and Spuria’s mission is back on track. At the moment the building is swathed in scaffolding to repair a faulty front façade, but Elbetri is optimistic the face-lift will be successful and their street entrance will soon be visible again.  
A visit to the Scrap Exchange will find it still in its constant state of chaotic organization or organized chaos; there is no sign of packing boxes or employee angst. August is the month for moving and I have been assured all will be in place by Sept. 2. For now, Kearney’s show is in the Green Gallery, midway in the building, and another exhibition will follow him. Kearney uses repurposed materials, reclaimed clay and stuff scavenged from dumpsters, curbsides and construction sites. With the exception of the sloth which hangs from its perch, the objects are presented like small treasures. 
There is the large found stone set upright looking like a monster head and the robot-like figure made from precast stones reset to stand one on top of the other. At first glance “Rust Belt” appears to be made of a rubber banding set into a stand. The belt, however, is made of ceramic and a large plump clay strawberry hangs from it. There are parts of machinery Kearney has arranged into suggestions of house forms and a bit of clay that looks like a cross. 
In two corners of the room Kearney has placed a small classical male bust on one side and a tiny female form poised on a stack of bricks on the other. Kearney’s addition of these time-honored forms has many layers of meaning. One perhaps is to tell the audience he has had a traditional education; another is that in the 21st century even the most non-traditional materials are permissible in creating conventional images. Or these realistic sculptures stand as sentries overlooking the abstract wonders made by a contemporary artist.
Elbetri told me showing Patterson and Suggs together at Light came from a video shoot Patterson, the older of the two, made of Suggs as part of a series on artists. Patterson’s large nude figure studies and her equally large spare images from nature monopolize the space; Suggs’ work requires close inspection to understand how she has created her images. 
Patterson is a professional botanical artist and has worked for many years as an illustrator for a New York Times garden column. Here “Switch Grass,” a spare giclee print of six grass fronds, is a perfect rendering of a Good Houskeeping description, “… this is one gorgeous grass. After a shower, the delicate clouds of switch grass seed heads are spangled with raindrops that glisten in the sun.” Her large drawings of Rubenesque women are also beautiful. They allow an expansive stroke which counteracts Patterson’s carefully controlled images from nature. For the artist, moving from precision to unrestrained intuitive movement is a way to attack specific problems. Too much control and spontaneity may be lost; too much painterly freedom and it is possible to lose the ability to slow down for detail.
Suggs’ patterns, made on the finest archival paper, are the result of obsessive drawing of tiny circles on a surface. The designs simulate bursts of energy in hues of blues, blacks and whites. In some, the circles are drawn on the surface; in others the circles have been punched out of one drawing and pasted to another. The result of the cutting leaves that image with a lacy surface. As an example, the artist cuts out black circles from a black background and adheres them to a white surface; the two almost become the negatives and positives of an imagined design. Suggs received a North Carolina Arts Council Fellowship Award in 2012 and her series of dots and circles was developed in that year.  She is now in her last year at Virginia Commonwealth University as a MFA candidate in fibers. Suggs told Elbetri she is finished with dots and circles for now and will focus on fibers and all its possibilities.  
These two galleries, so different yet so much alike, are poised to make big things happen in the coming months. Watch for their announcements of new shows and make a point to get to see them.

Blue Greenberg’s column appears each week in Entertainment and More. She can be reached at blueg@bellsouth.net or by writing her in c/o The Herald-Sun, 2828 Pickett Road, Durham, NC 27705.