Domino 02: Aqua, an exhibition at Covington’s Artisans Enterprise Center (AEC), features an “international collaboration” by 12 artists, each one creating a painting on half of two canvases, which are then distributed to another artist to finish the other side. The exhibition title, no doubt, is an allusion to the final look of the works in the gallery: All are 20-by-40 inches with a small strip of painted canvas between each artist’s contribution — a rectangle divided into two equal squares, just like lined up dominoes.
The creator of the idea, Italian artist and curator Vittorio Ferri, explains his intentions behind the first domino 01 exhibition, which took place in Milan, Italy in 2011, thusly: “a multi-artist, sequential work in which each artist creates his painting out of half of two canvases placed side-by-side, finishing one begun by the artist before him, and passing along his incomplete canvas to the following artist of the series.” Therefore, when placed side by side, one might see the visible traces of a call and response between each artist and their predecessor.
The thematic starting point for domino 02 — “Aqua,” or water — is close to the heart of newly appointed arts director for the city of Covington, Cate Yellig, curator of the AEC show. Yellig also serves as secretary on the board of directors for OMID-USA, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the cause of increasing subsistence farmers’ productivity and income by providing access to “market-driven, agriculture-based” solutions such as drip irrigation and portable renewable energy platforms.
In conjunction with University of Cincinnati electrical engineering students, OMID developed drip irrigation and solar-powered mobile energy platforms and provides micro-loans for those who might not otherwise be able to afford the water distillation technology. The nonprofit sponsored the exhibition, and funds raised by the sale of artwork from domino 02 will be allocated for the global nonprofit.
There are three out of 15 total works in the exhibition that don’t fit into the aforementioned double-ended domino premise; although one is a canvas painted only with the title logo. Boston painter Susan Post made all three.
The artist is also credited, along with Yellig, Ferri, OMID CEO and President Dr. Mohsen Rezayat and two other participating artists as “curators of the artistic project” on Ferri’s website. While that seems a bit odd, one can only expect that with so many handlers over several continents — not to mention the differences in language translation — people are empowered by titles (something that is free to give, yet valuable to receive) to safeguard their charge.
At any rate, with every other artist participating just twice within each exhibition, to have five separate pieces by Post (only two of which are actual twinned halves) seems off-balance for such an otherwise symmetrical exhibition — but her work fits right within that of the other abstract colorists who also participate.
The AEC is a community center that not only features exhibition space, but also serves as meeting space and educational facility.The building is open and bright with high ceilings and plenty of natural light, and there are several significant areas to display artwork within the 5,000-square-foot space.
What might have been the most interesting thing about domino 02, however, is how the pieces — particularly if installed sequentially, with each canvas “domino” butted up with its neighbor — have the potential to demonstrate the visual common ground that each artist was able to find when juxtaposed between the work of two other artists.
In one such example, Michele Cannao’s and John Humphries’ works flank that of Swiss artist Sonja Aeschlimann on the left and right, respectively. While all three artists clearly work in abstracted compositions, there are traces of the former and latter artists within the colors, shapes and textures that Aeschlimann employs. Which came first is uncertain, yet provocative to consider — all qualities of a thoughtfully curated art show.
The logistics of organizing something that spans several countries over a couple of continents (in this case, Italy, Switzerland and the U.S.) might have been overwhelming for someone with less experience and fortitude than Yellig. With her track record working with artists around the globe in her seven years at Phyllis Weston Gallery and as part of the now defunct PAC Gallery, the newest art director for the city of Covington is perfectly poised to take on the kind of art exhibitions that will continue to put the city’s advocacy for art and artists on the map.
DOMINO 02: AQUA continues at Artisans Enterprise Center through Feb. 16. More info here.