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Issues and Arrangements: The Narrative Tableau
Kate Breakey, Alice Leora Briggs, Chris Rush

 

Exhibition: Issues and Arrangements: The Narrative Tableau
Alice Leora Briggs, scratchboard drawings
Kate Breakey, painted photographs
Chris Rush, mixed-media drawings

Location: Etherton Gallery - 135 S. Sixth Avenue

Hours: 11-5 Tuesday - Saturday, 11-7 Thursday

Exhibition Dates: April 11- June 3, 2006

Reception: Saturday, April 15th, 7 - 10 p.m.

Contact: Jerre Johnston - 624-7370

Contents:
Implications of global, historical and personal allegories are realized in works of varied media by a trio of artists who are meticulous observers. Alice Briggs's images draw from the history of art and the topical news of the day. Chris Rush's haunting portraits are rendered on what he refers to as unusual paper, ephemera gathered on the streets of Tucson and the flea markets of Europe. Kate Breakey's series of toned and hand-colored photographs of birds and flowers are encounters with nature in general and life in particular.


Alice L. Briggs: Emulator, imitator, and innovator, Alice Briggs's graphically rendered scratchboard drawings make us mindful of the potential for social critique that is realized within the realm of appropriation, invention, and the dialectic between expression and representation. Fascinated, as she states, "by the manner in which memories structure and destroy my emotional, cognitive and physical states of being," Briggs's work asks us to consider the gap between the image and reality. With the advent of the computer, film, video and other mechanisms that mimic physical experience, our experiential realm of events has become increasingly virtual. It is in this paradoxical world of fact and fiction that Briggs "encounters and sorts increasing numbers of synthetic events."

In the space between what she calls these "counterfeit experiences and other incidents in my life," lies the reflective myth born of memory that summons the variable modulations of meaning residing somewhere between the artist and the viewer. Briggs's work is a search for meaning. Believing in the artist's ability to extract meaning from what they see and experience, her work is a compendium of self-reflexive fictions and pictorial retellings.

Armed with the tenets of irony and appropriation, her work referentially reflects Yves Klein's contention that "art should result in experiences rather than objects." As objects born of experience, Briggs's drawings have the free sketch quality of an "open graphic aesthetic." Influenced by the master works of Roger van der Weyden, Albrecht Durer, and Pieter Brueghel, her vision is contemporary and historical, the imagery of which opens outward into an imaginative space where the eye is held by the significance of the action and realistic quality of the representation. This is the intimate relation between drawing and seeing that refers back to its maker -"the line as signature."

Combining realistic depiction with subjective fantasy, Briggs "clusters images created by artists in previous centuries, drawings made of the spaces I pass through and of the objects I encounter, diagrams of all sorts, and photographs translated from newspapers and magazines." Obsessed with mark making and the direct experience of creating objects, her works operate as records of their own making. Within her realm of historical and topical references, appropriation and invention, Briggs's imagery conjures "the confusion of the "Now."

 

Chris Rush: Chris Rush's new work is a series of "haunting portraits" rendered on what he refers to as "unusual paper, ephemera gathered on the streets of Tucson and the flea markets of Europe." Forming the basis for this series are old letters, diaries, 18th century documents and children's art works which afford their own character to the portraits immediacy.

Rush's drawings on found paper create a dialogue between the activities of drawing as a record of its own making and the mutual influence realized in the document as an object in itself. The interaction created by the found object quality of the sheets themselves become more than just the field for an image; the undisguised pentimenti draws attention to the process of seeing as a questioning investigation. Within this dialogue lies the fundamentals of pictorial activity -the intimate relation between expression and representation, and the possibility for modulations of meaning residing somewhere between the artist and the viewer.

Figurative in nature, Rush's work conveys his exceptional ability to capture a likeness and model with precision whether working in Conte crayon or with the graphic spontaneity of sketchy lines in pencil. Known for The Lost Portraits, a series of luminous drawings of children with mental and physical disabilities, Rush's rendered homage to the human figure becomes realized as a vessel for the vicissitudes of the human condition. As he calls into question the idea of the other, the "missing" and other socially relevant issues of marginalization, this series of portraits makes us symbolic witnesses to the enabling process of restoration and re-creation "lodged in the folds of being."

Rush's work has been exhibited at the Drawing Center and the Alternative Museum in New York, the Phoenix Art Museum, and the Tucson Museum of Art. His work is included in numerous private and public collections, including the Phoenix Art Museum and the Tucson Museum of Art.

 

Kate Breakey: With her new series entitled, Memories and Dreams, Kate Breakey continues her ongoing series of toned and hand-colored photographs that reference the vanitas or natura morta tradition. Like the early Daguerrean funerary portraits, the pictorialist acceptance of subjects like cemeteries, and the nature morte and vanitas traditions in classical art, these images are allegorical novellas, odes to the ephemera of life and our need to record its figment. Composed of the simplest arrangements of animals, birds and flowers, the seduction and sensuality of Breakey’s luminous palette is illuminated in an atmosphere of contemplative dialogue between the artist and her subjects.

Within the sphere of pictorial theatre lies the lyrical sense of the simple and the rich – a suspended rabbit, it’s luxuriant fur highlighted against a sensual backdrop of red-violet appears to grasp two delicately arranged carnations, a horny toad takes flight and two quail chicks frolic in a graduated depth of color and light. Breakey’s large format, toned and hand colored photographs involve a “reverence for nature in general and life in particular.” As she states, “I am a sensualist. I admit to my seduction by texture, color, light and form. It is my deepest pleasure, my lovely addiction.”
The beauty of the formally arranged scene as a subject in its own right emerged in the 16th century. In classical art, still life subjects of dead animals, flowers, hourglasses and mirrors transitioned from their devotional, emblematic meaning to collections of objects arranged to display the painter’s virtuosity. Breakey’s work references 16th century Spanish and Dutch painting, in particular the Spanish artists Juan Sánchez Cotán and Francisco de Zubarán. Also influenced by Cézanne, Breakey shuttles between the centuries dwelling in the “dark light” between the thing of nature and the distillation of its form. The narrative tableau is given form in what she calls “constructed symmetrical shrines where desert wildlife have their memories and dreams in a kind of imaginary afterlife.”

Breakey’s images of individual creatures, are as she says “...little representatives of all the lives and deaths that we disregard.” Her work involves a “reverence for nature in general and life in particular.” The dead things that she finds or is given, be they plant, fowl, or reptile, possess a fundamental spirit beyond the shell that is left behind. In collecting and examining these “small deaths” Breakey invokes the role of the naturalist and artist. The large-scale format of the images monumentalizes the seemingly “small” bearing of her subjects and furthers the commemoration of their fugitive aspect.

With titles that reference the Latin taxonomy of species, followed by popular names, Breakey enters the realm of text and image, and references the nineteenth-century practice of assembled collections of specimens into natural history collections. Written in silver ink, on the print, the naming process enhances the poetic qualities of the moribund. The process of naming, its signification, becomes a poetic symbol, a memento mori coupled with the naturalist’s debt to nature. This connection between the image and reality, object and symbol, coupled with the animal’s pose and bearing, reference our own humanity, the experiential vicissitudes of time and the natural transit from “birth to earth.”

Breakey has shown extensively in this country, has been featured in numerous magazines and journals and is collected by prestigious institutions including the Center for Creative Photography in Tucson, The Wittliff Gallery of Southwestern and Mexican Photography, and the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, Australia among many others. Breakey’s monographs include Small Deaths and Flowers/Birds. Born in Australia in 1957, Breakey lives and works in Tucson, Arizona.

 

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