Still, so-called “alternative art spaces” are a crucial component for any city that wants to have meaningful contemporary art. So it’s worth the effort to get down there occasionally to see what’s going on.
Now is an especially good time. Through Nov. 27, Semantics is featuring Carmel Buckley: New Work, a show of drawings and non-traditional sculptural work that really is a coup for the two-room space at 1107 Harrison Ave. Buckley, a Cincinnati resident and an associate professor of sculpture at Ohio State University, has shown around the world. She’s married to Mark Harris, director of the school of art at University of Cincinnati’s DAAP.
Her untitled sculptural work at Semantics, which combines pattern-cut fabric and other material with found/discarded objects, is a clear and illuminating example of how artists can make beauty and achieve balance out of the plainest and seemingly most limiting of material and color.
Buckley’s show makes a strong impact upon first entering. A piece on the floor consists of an unusual odd object — a potato ricer — occupying the center of a red cloth with circles of white dots. In another piece behind it and to the left, circular holes have been cut into a blanket that has been piled like a miniature mountain peak. The cutout pieces are on the wooden floor, where they blend in with white-paint splotches. The piece is so sensitive to its surroundings, so environmental in its suggestions of nature, that it feels organic.
Buckley has several more sculptural pieces involving cut fabric or paper, all fascinating. She also has a series of drawings that are impressive for their ability to vary the intensity of the ink to let suggestions of imagery emerge from the army-of-circles abstractions on her paper sheets.
Stuff Art, the show up through Nov. 27 at nearby U-turn (2159 Central Ave. www.uturnartspace.blogspot.com), offers work by five artists, two of whom (Deb Brod and Paige Williams) are living in Cincinnati. Williams, a professor of painting and drawing at the Art Academy, offers very pleasing paintings with colorful and vulnerable painted lines on wood. But the most dramatic work here is sculptural — mixed-media assemblages occupying floor space.
There’s an impressive range in scale. Take the difference in an untitled piece by New York artist B. Wurtz and one by Brod called “Paul’s Chair.” The former, atop a higher-than-waist-level white pedestal, consists of tiny holes lined up horizontally in a wood block. They hold, in order, two small white nails, a larger black screw and a small, white, arrow-shaped periodontal device. Does it matter, really, what they are? Is it not enough that they do it with such grace, precision and humility?
Brod’s “Paul’s Chair,” on the other hand, piles it on. An old wooden chair with a worn-out cushion holds all sorts of softer material, balanced upward like layers of an endless wedding cake. There’s a picture frame in the middle (to remind us that it’s art) and some kind of wire support inside. It reminds me of a secular Christmas tree and a reminder that sometimes judiciously chosen “more” can be more.
CONTACT STEVEN ROSEN: firstname.lastname@example.org