Art: A Traveling Show

J. Susan Schuler and Stuart Fabe at Malton Gallery

Nov 8, 2006 at 2:06 pm
Joe Lamb

Bold Strokes: A street-eye view of J. Susan Schuler's colorful paintings at Malton Gallery.

Stuart Fabe and J. Susan Schuler have brought their exquisite work together in a joint exhibition, Bold Strokes, at Malton Gallery (2643 Erie Ave., Hyde Park). The merging of these two locals is surprisingly harmonious in that each deals with exploration, travel, memory and nostalgia.

Fabe uses organic materials to create deceptively complex sculptures. Wood and twine, carved with a keen sense of texture and detail, transform into drum-like objects. The sculptures conjure, above all, a likeness to handmade, old-world musical instruments. They appear completely natural, undyed, yet sanded, smoothed and oiled to perfection — like a modern-day Cremonian violin. Fabe's objects sit on their bases with a narrative of music and craftsmanship.

Schuler, on the other hand, works with oil paint and canvas. Yet her work is not exactly the two-dimensional painting that is so often what we see. Schuler, a traveler, transforms her experiences in remote parts of the world — like China and Cambodia — into a kind of Weltanschauung that directly influences her work.

Her paintings hang like colorful eruptions around Fabe's more understated sculptures. Yet as seen in Fabe's work, Schuler's paintings emit a sense of the old-world. For this, you must look carefully. The most impressive of her paintings incorporates fabrics she found on her travels, "textures of exotic papers, threads, rubbings, personal photographic images, Asian currency (and) newspaper images."

Both Schuler and Fabe tap a specific nostalgia. Too often this kind of nostalgia seems more like ineffective pandering to a prelapsairan Eden, untouched by our polluted (yet advanced) Western world. In the show at Malton Gallery, however, Schuler and Fabe have been careful not to tread into this shallow thought.

Rather than simplify their work to capture the nostalgia they seek, the artists here exaggerate complexity. Memory is linked with object. Time overlaps with personal experience. The remote regions of the world suddenly are not relegated to some parenthetical past age; they exist fully present, and as knotty and variegated as our own lives, as perfect and as advanced as our own machines.

It is because of this merging of likeminded art and artists that the gallery has such a successful exhibition now. The small space does not allow viewers to see the works individually — it is necessary that they comprise a cohesive entity for the space. That they do, and yet any and all of Schuler's paintings or Fabe's sculptures could and will work as a being unto itself. Even alone, these works bring with them the nostalgia and the correlation to each other's work. Come to Malton Gallery to experience the delightful sound of a sculpture, the excursive memory of a painting. Grade: A-

BOLD STROKES continues at Malton Gallery through Nov. 10.