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    Playing the grotto

    Installations use the walls as information and context as well as support in "Surroundings."


    The walls do double duty in this show at Safe-T-Gallery. The art uses the wall... changes the wall. And the whole idea of something on the wall... what should that something be? A trophy? An heirloom? A window?

    Exhibition: Surroundings.
    Works by: Susan Hamburger; Carol Salmanson.
    November 19 - December 19, 2004
    Opening reception: November 19, 2004, 6-8

    Gallery: Safe-T-Gallery
    111 Front St. Ste 214
    Brooklyn NY
    Hours: Wed.-Sat.12-6
    Phone: (718) 782-5920

    Susan Hamburger addressed this question and began her own quest, investigating the perfect thing to put on a "wall." And what she's come up with is art that hangs on a fine background. Taking the idea of painting on plates as a prelude, she studied the porcelain dinnerware that was used in Williamsburg, Brooklyn in the past. Working with an authentic 200-year-old pattern called "Ruins" among others, she has imitated the floral motifs in sepia on foam-core boards.

    Pressing on with this delightfully informed Romanticism, Hamburger pens the iconic landscape of a changing Williamsburg, with its derelict industry, orthodox cathedrals and weedy lots. Focusing on the gritty armature of Williamsburg, she is creating a final portrait of a neighborhood that faces immense change in the next decade. Her record will be not only a tribute to a dynamic time and place, but also a testament to endurance and an investment in that scene.

    Luminous Layers 2 in Surroundings  
    Luminous Layers 2
    In the center of a hall painted black with green and white wainscoting coming halfway up the wall, Hamburger's vignettes are wickedly en pointe. In addition to the plates hanging on the wall like in a truly proper dining room, a shelf holds several more plates as well as some teacups and a teapot.

    On one plate, a foreboding sign outside a barb wired entrance reads 214 Lenard (sic). Hamburger says she doesn't edit, but paints them as she sees them. Lucky for us, she has really seen her beloved Williamsburg and has given it an impressive homage in these downright exquisite "keepsakes."

    It is in the nature of light to be an enveloping ingredient, and Carol Salmanson has created some very special optic effects in her new light sculptures. The installation was a successful foray and marks new ground in all around environmental sculpture. Not tons of people are using light, but another practitioner who might come to mind — who works with light and also with environments — is James Turrell. Both artists have an ability to ritualize space, as if preparing us for some imminent conversion.

      Hamburger pens the iconic landscape of a changing Williamsburg, with its derelict industry, orthodox cathedrals and weedy lots.
    Salmanson presents light in stripes made of spots that cast extremely ambient glows. The L.E.D. lights are arranged in vertical strips that hang against the wall like pendants or as clips in a magazine or as regimental bars and awards pinned to a uniform. One can read these postulations of illumination in various ways all of which echo the simple rhythm of the rows of tiny twin lights.

    The overall effect of a room full of these almost life-size presences is an effervescent experience in an all around environmental sculpture. It is the ultimate grotto — a rainbow in a cave. Dripping rhythms of turquoise, ruby and amber mimic stalagmites hanging down from the pastel lime walls. Shadows creep into recesses and bounce around the room adding a velvety haze. Jewel tones emanate from the bright bulbs as the light is heightened and simultaneously dispersed. This happens as it is refracted through an acrylic prism rod that runs down the front like a sword. This clear bar adds symmetry and weight and acts as a lens that the light passes through on its journey to our eyes.

    Las Vegas, fairy tale, pool hall, stained glass.  

    Our relationship with the mix-up of yummy colors and the response it evokes is key to these "Luminous Layers," as some of the pieces are called. Las Vegas, fairy tale, pool hall, stained glass. Salmanson knows how to present the emblematic in a choreographed sense that makes sculpture out of color.

    Both artists' installations seem to have one direction in common — museums!

    NOVEMBER 28, 2004

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