Contemporary Art & Galvin/Davis Studio

fotos: antonio aresco, rit, xi mag
werds: james niche

First Friday: May 2nd
Alison Saar: Sculpture & Works On Paper
May 2nd - June 1st, Rochester Contemporary Art Center

Art is alive and well in Rochester this spring and summer, and in even more venues than before. The Rochester Contemporary Art Center (137 East Avenue) was host this past Friday the 2nd to the Alison Saar exhibit "Sculpture And Works On Paper", with the help of curator Deborah Ronnen and the center's director, Bleu Cease. Bleu, by the way, is a hell of a name and I am extremely jealous.

Alison is a California native and child of well-known African-American artist Betye Saar, and art conservationist Richard Saar. The exhibit features twenty-two pieces of sculpture and monotype work done with bronze, wood, ink, nails, and other various objects placed onto select paintings.

As we walked into the newly-renovated gallery space, I was taken in heart to Spring and Broadway, NYC. That was the feel. The walls and space in this gallery are a welcome medium for any long-time or up-and-coming artists. Bleu Cease has done an incredible job - not only on redesigning this space, but also putting this gallery on the map in Rochester and all of New York. The front desk and logo were just recently done at the gallery and looked great. The general feel is like the studio says: contemporary. It’s modern, it’s alive, and it’s waiting for hungry young artists.

As I walked, I spoke with guests attending from Buffalo, Syracuse, Toronto, and New York. This was a warming and pleasant surprise for a Rochester native and fan wanting to see our independent artists and businesses draw more from outside Rochester.

The work of Alison Saar has been said to explore issues surrounding identity, fertility, and aging. I see a focus on cultural identity and female empowerment, as well. On the floor of the exhibit are several bronze and wooden sculptures of women in seemingly distressed positions. On the walls are a great number of works; all displays of women memorialized, women identifying themselves, and women discovered. Some could say it's an emotional movement of empowerment, traversity, struggle, and power of women past and present.

My favorite piece was a small-scale sculpture of Harriet Tubman. Having many ties to Rochester via the Underground Railroad, Tubman is an extremely important figure in the lives of not only women, but also African-Americans.

The large version of the sculpture is a permanent fixture at the corner of 126th and Harriet Tubman Way in Harlem, New York. The mammoth sculpture at the intersection of those streets is a tribute to the cultural icon, the Underground Railroad, and to the great people of Harlem. It represents serenity in New York City - a world landmark in an urban center. The statue is surrounded by a garden containing trees indigenous to New York City, as well as trees and plant life indigenous to the south. Etched along the base of the statue is a refrain from Harriet Tubman’s favorite song, “Let My People Go” (lyrics).

The sculpture of Harriet is designed similarly to a train, with a cattle catcher at the base symbolizing the power she had to push through any obstacle in her way. The body of the piece is embedded with faces, shackles, and chains - all representing the struggles and people she has brought with her on her way to freedom and a new life for her people. It’s emotionally stirring and an important piece for African-Americans, in general.

I encourage all to stop down and spend some time at the gallery for this exhibit, especially women and African-Americans, and make sure you say hi to Bleu. He’s got a killer studio working and a killer name to match. Look for much more to come this summer from Rochester Contemporary Art Center as part of Rochester's First Fridays art endeavor.

First Friday: May 2nd
Galvin Davis Studio

It’s color, it’s urban, it’s just my style. The Galvin/Davis Studio, for those of you not familiar, is operated by Chas Davis and Tom Galvin in the old Cadillac Building at Anson Place off of East Avenue downtown, a few yards down from the corner of Alexander Street.

This was my first time in this space and also my first time meeting Chas and it was a pleasure. The atmosphere is eclectic, urban, and a colorful free-for-all of art exploration and consumption. A delicious pu-pu platter.

Chas, a native of Indiana, has been painting and teaching around the country and the world for the past twenty years, with twelve of those being in Rochester, and for the last six years Chas and Tom have occupied the space in the Cadillac building; the old mechanic’s repair shop, to be exact. Chas was formerly on Cascade Street at the ATDE Studio (Art That Doesn’t Exist).

Chas’ work is a blast of abstract colors, colorful scenes, and prints. Tom Galvin’s work is a bouquet of colors, floral patterns and designs. Color, color, color is all I can say and I love it.

When I walked in, I was welcomed with a smile by Chas and felt like I should have got down with a brush, myself. This felt like the people’s studio... like it’s not just Galvin's and Davis’, but as if it belongs to the community.

Chas has been traveling all over the country over the years. Hitchhiking, painting faces at carnivals, and gracing our railroad industry with the touch of his brush. This is the artist's artist in Rochester: laid back; he just wants to take you for a visual ride.

The First Fridays have been going on since February at Galvin/Davis and attendance has been good. Better weather is coming for the summer, and I hope that will bring out even more that attend.

- james niche, act:live

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