In keeping with the tradition of showcasing unique contemporary art, the current show at A Gallery on Uncas Avenue, Oak Bluffs, features three artists whose work clearly stretches the boundaries of the traditional art world, and one photographer whose portraits capture subjects with very distinctive styles of their own.
The latter, Alessandra Petlin, is a successful New York City–based photographer specializing in commercial, advertising, and editorial portrait photography, who has also won accolades for her fine art photography, such as the series of portraits now hanging at A Gallery. Ms. Petlin discovered her subjects during her travels around New York City. She invited a number of African-American women whose style caught her eye to pose for her. The women came to Ms. Petlin’s studio dressed in clothes of their own choice. The styles range from street fashion to artistic and dramatic looks, to polished elegance.
The portraits spotlight striking hair styles, bold makeup, and imaginative looks in clothing and accessories. As visually arresting as the style statements are, it is the women’s faces that really draw the viewer in. The subjects represent all ages. Some have modelesque good looks, others more average faces, but Ms. Petlin has captured the beauty of all through their strength and self-confidence. The collection is a stunner.
Also showing her work is Carol Brown Goldberg, a very accomplished artist, sculptor, and art filmmaker, who exhibits a range of styles. Since last year, A Gallery has shown her series of small assemblages, constructed of brass found objects painted fire-engine red. For the current exhibit, gallery owner Tanya Augoustinos is introducing Ms. Goldberg’s most recent work, the “Garden Series.”
Although best known for her large, abstract installation pieces, for her new series Ms. Goldberg has focused on colorful depictions of fanciful gardens. The work has the feel of 1960s and ’70s pop artists like Peter Max, with bright colors and distinct outlines. Ms. Goldberg notes that she was introduced to the artists from the Chicago Imagists, particularly the Hairy Who, while in college. “I fell in love with their kind of rambunctiousness,” she says. “There was this combination of cartoon, comics, outrageousness, and formal art. They all came out of the Art Institute of Chicago, and were kind of an answer to the staid interest of the New York art world.”
For the “Garden Series,” Ms. Goldberg reached back to her early roots. “Many years ago I got into this outline style. I was influenced by the modern masters. Matisse was my secret. I became enamored with the line and image.”
This new series is quite a departure from the work that has earned Ms. Goldberg accolades and honors as well as inclusion in shows at museums and galleries all over the country and internationally (her résumé is a long and impressive one). Inspired by the natural surroundings of her summer home on Peaked Hill in Chilmark, the artist created the flower paintings while on the Vineyard last summer. She has not shown them publicly until now. “They were kind of secret,” she says. “The Vineyard is the appropriate place to show them.” A Gallery will also be screening Ms. Goldberg’s film “The Color of Time” in September.
Artist Jo-Anne Bates has developed a unique technique to create eye-catching amorphous designs that, upon close inspection, deliver a powerful message. Known for her monotype prints, Ms. Bates recently started experimenting with ways to bring new energy to her work. She started by tearing and folding the prints before putting them through the press. This gave a sculptural look to the printed material. She added further texture by adding layers of shredded junk mail, and then drew over the entire accumulation with different colors of ink and added text. “I began introducing words, sayings, and statements used by and about black people, particularly situations surrounding mistreatment of young black males by various policemen,” says Ms. Bates.
The creation of this series has allowed the artist to voice her opinion on recent events and other issues. One piece has the words “Black Power Is Women Power.” Another includes the text “I Can’t Breathe. Don’t Shoot.”
“These are issues that concern me,” says Ms. Bates. “Particularly the ones about police brutality towards young African-American males.”
“Some of this may be very controversial with some people,” she adds; “I hope this will spark some discussions.”
Ms. Bates, who spends her summers here, has earned a reputation in her hometown of Pittsburgh, where she was just nominated for Artist of the Year by the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts.
The show’s remaining artist, Chioke Morais, adds an avant-garde element to the exhibit. He has contributed three large three-dimensional works to the show that are all attention grabbers, as well as very different from one another.
Mr. Morais moved to the Vineyard from Chicago in 2008. Although he was an established contemporary artist in his former home, and was the featured artist at the Milwaukee Avenue Arts Festival in 2012, his visibility on the Island until recently has been limited to a few pieces included in group shows at the Featherstone Center for the Arts.
Now, Mr. Morais would seem to have found the perfect fit with A Gallery. “His work is so random. I had no idea what the hell he was going to bring in,” says Ms. Augoustinos. What she did know was that his work would certainly be interesting and visually arresting. She was right. One of Mr. Morais’ pieces, “Guest Check,” is exactly that — a page from a waiter’s order pad blown up to immense proportions and given some additional depth with recessed areas. Another mixed-media piece shows a woman in a Darth Vader mask holding a ceramic red balloon.
All in all, A Gallery’s show is a fascinating look at some artists hitherto unknown in the Vineyard gallery scene.
The opening this past Saturday was a packed affair that brought together many diverse factions of the community, from high-end collectors to the merely curious. And unlike many gallery shows where people take in the work during a quick stroll and spend more time engaging with each other than with the art, A Gallery’s crowd seemed fully drawn in by the work of these four artists. The unifying theme, if there was one to be found, is that all of the work demands the viewer’s attention. It has power. It has attitude. Go see for yourself.
Alessandra Petlin, Carol Brown Goldberg, Jo-Anne Bates, Chioke Morais, at A Gallery, Oak Bluffs, through August 27. For more information, contact Tanya Augoustinos at 917-378-0662.