Aquinnah summer resident Roberta Gross is one of six abstract artists in a new exhibit at Louisa Gould Gallery in Vineyard Haven. “The Emotions of Color and Passions of Gesture” opens Thursday, August 16, with a reception scheduled for Saturday, August 18, from 6 to 8 pm.
Ms. Gross, who curated the show, talked last week about how she came to organize it. She met Ms. Gould five years ago, and asked the gallery owner if she was interested in sponsoring a show of abstract artists. Ms. Gould was getting married that fall and told the artist she’d do it only if Ms. Gross would curate it. As someone who also curated an art exhibit for the Levine School of Music in Washington, D.C., Ms. Gross was happy to oblige.
To curate an art exhibit means taking on responsibility for all the arrangements involved in an exhibit, from selecting the artists to hanging the work. Ms. Gross has now done the abstract exhibit at Louisa Gould Gallery for the past four years; she also teaches abstract art at Featherstone Center for the Arts in Oak Bluffs.
“With abstraction, people are always imposing their own perceptions,” Ms. Gross says. “Color, balance, and rhythm create a new language in abstract art.” In a gallery talk scheduled for Wednesday, August 22, at 6 pm, Ms. Gross will talk about why some people have a hard time relating to abstract art.
“I called up some people I knew,” Ms. Gross says. As a long-time Washington, D.C., resident who worked as NASA’s Inspector General and spent seven years in the Clinton administration, she naturally contacted artist friends there. She picked people whose style she liked. “I like texture, I like color,” she says. Much of the art in the new show has been created specifically for the event, and three of the artists are new to the gallery.
Ms. Gross describes Marsha Staiger as an amazing colorist and a quirky artist. Ms. Staiger makes R&B (Rhythm and Balance) sticks of cradled masonite that have been painted on five sides. The R&B sticks are long (76 inches) and narrow, and for the artist they make an allusion to rhythm and blues music.
“You have to get them all to balance,” says Ms. Gross. “You can create a musical rhythm that way.” Last year she incorporated Ms. Staiger’s shorter R&B sticks, called R&B2go, as fences or borders between other artists’ work.
Ms. Gross saw Joan Konkel’s work in a book, “100 Artists of the Mid-Atlantic.” She became interested in how Ms. Konkel uses mesh and aluminum with acrylic paint to create sculptural wall paintings, where light reflects in unusual ways.
“Light works differently through mesh,” Ms. Gross says. It creates a dynamic visual surface with light both absorbed and reflected. Colors and shadows may shift according to the light and the position of the viewer. Some Konkel pieces are as wide as five feet.
West Tisbury resident Laura Roosevelt will show her abstract photography, based on a visit to Baltimore’s harbor, where water distorted and transformed boats, pilings, docks, and buildings. “She likes to work with reflection,” Ms. Gross says.
A guest artist in the show is Chilmark resident Wendy Weldon. “I’ve known her for years,” Ms. Gross says, and she visited Ms. Weldon’s studio to find work for the show. Ms. Weldon will display four monoprints in which rocks and rock formations create abstract patterns.
Craig Cahoon is a Washington, D.C., artist new to the Gould gallery but not new to the Island. Ms. Gross describes his small, 10-inch square paintings as seemingly simple works — a spiral on a color field, for instance — that synthesize his experiences and allow him to relive sensations and memories, explore archetypal imagery, and investigate composition and materials.
Ms. Gross will include six of her own large, mixed-media acrylic paintings. They contain big shapes, sinewy, weaving and disappearing lines and bubbly surfaces like dreamscapes. The artist has incorporated different kinds of paper and scrap materials to create a variety of layers in these works.
“You really want to have a flow,” Ms. Gross says of how she will hang the work. “You need to provide breathing room, so each artist leads into the next. There may not all be one artist’s work together.” The goal is to create rhythm and balance, she says.
The Emotions of Color and Passions of Gesture, Louisa Gould Gallery, Vineyard Haven, opening reception Saturday, Aug. 18, 6–8 pm. Gallery talk by Roberta Gross, Wednesday, Aug. 22, 6 pm. Call 508-693-7373 or see louisagould.com.