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Inward glimpses: “Spyglass” by Sarah C. Rutherford & Brandon Colaprete

Posted in review with tags , , , , , on June 2, 2012 by Rebecca

This post originally appeared on Rochester City Newspaper‘s art blog.

A detail from “Spyglass,” on view at 1975 Gallery through June 16. PHOTO BY REBECCA RAFFERTY

This world hasn’t lost its wonder and its magic for Sarah Rutherford – in fact she insists upon its presence and will manifest it, conjure it up from scavenged detritus wherever it’s not readily apparent. And those who also feel the sweet tug of the beautiful mystery are drawn to her luminous work like so many sleepy little moths, shaking the dust from their wings and hovering about, fascinated. On Thursday, May 31, a flurry of us swarmed to the lantern-lit preview of her new installation, “Spyglass,”created this time not with art collective, The Sweet Meat Co., but with architect Brandon Colaprete. The show is installed at the former Little Bakery spot on Charlotte Street, which will be the future, permanent home of the nomadic-no-longer 1975 Gallery.

On the approach toward the former bakery from Main Street, viewers first spy a whorl of wood surrounding a window and creating a portal; the other side of the building is illustrated with a dreamy mural of clockwork crows.

Once inside, visitors navigate distorted, twisting walls into a created room within a room, where they step into nooks or peek through globes and various found lenses into wee spaces populated by cut-out figures, animals, bones, books, gears, feathers, and all manner of natural nuance. Weatherworn warrior women stand strong, alone, or make silent appeals to elusive, reliable menfolk.

Coming from a background of painting and drawing, Rutherford says “it was wonderful working with someone who thinks in more three-dimensional terms.” Her creative partner in this exhibition is Brandon Colaprete, an architect with Chaintreuil Jensen Stark Architects, which is the firm behind the Eastman Theatre Expansion & Renovation project. In creating “Spyglass,” Rutherford felt herself starting to think differently about space. “The 2-D objects, the crows/figures, etc., became the same as the lumber – all just parts of a whole piece,” she says.

“Brandon pushed me to work in a more planned manner, at least with the overall concept/building of skeleton, and I pushed him to loosen up,” she says. “This wasn’t a building or a permanent thing we were creating. It was a place to explore ideas and concepts in a more organic way. We were creating something that will be destroyed after two weeks of being finished. I think that freedom was fun for him, but also a challenge.”

The setting feels like a fragile, broken down sylvan cathedral, a sacred spot protected by all things capably feral. And like any stumbling upon the fae world, it might not be there the next time you visit. Above the reconstructed bits of architectural salvage, more clockwork crow illustrations soar among lights and cut paper which casts layers of shadows above and below. A life-sized, seated king-of-the-forest figure presides over the scene, but various beings watch viewers from every direction. Step up to one nook to find a secret boy child on high, spying down on all.

Like all of Rutherford’s endeavors, “Spyglass” is rife with unexpected nuance, and discovering it all could fill many hours. The origin of Spyglass began with a piece Rutherford created for last year’s Sweet Meat Co. installation, “Welcome to Sweetsville,” in which she used lenses given to her by 1975 Gallery owner and fellow Sweet Meat artist, Erich Lehman, to create a little viewing box with materials scavenged from an abandoned warehouse. “I wanted to play with that same idea but on a smaller scale – drawing the viewer into a private, intimate viewing experience,” says Rutherford. “After the show, I couldn’t stop thinking about what it would be like to make a whole room act in the same way – playing with the idea on a large scale and also on a intimate scale.”

Scavenging materials for the art is ever a part of the process for Rutherford and her friends. “It’s what I do, it’s what the crows do, it’s how this show was built. We as artists are scavengers – whether we use found materials or simply scavenge ideas and visual reference from our environment,” she says.

“The crows also have such impact for me as a visual reference for Rochester,” says Rutherford. “They are an integral part of our community and so powerful when they unite as this huge group or murder of birds. It’s in the same way that I look at our community. We are all uniquely beautiful, different, but coming together has its own power that could never be created working alone.” Though “Spyglass” was primarily created by the artist pair, Rutherford says “the wonderful group of people who participated both with labor and with support are both why it exists and what fuels me.”

“For this show, it was important to me that nothing was “for sale,” says Rutherford. “I truly wanted the show to be something that was about the experience and also heavily built around impermanence.” But after working on two Sweet Meat Co. installations, Rutherford was aware of how expensive they can become. Her solution was to create an eventual takeaway component of the exhibit: each person who donates $40 dollars towards the show will receive one of the crow drawings at its completion. “I liked this idea instead of simply asking one or two people to fund the whole exhibit – this way it is funded by the community,” says Rutherford. “They are the reason it exists.”

Rutherford’s breadcrumb trail might soon appear in different cities. “This installation was very much based around the building – its shape and flow, but also based around Rochester,” assembled from “discarded and forgotten pieces of our fine city,” says Rutherford. “I would love to work on this idea in a different city, using its fabric to see how that would translate.”

“For me, this show doesn’t feel “complete”, its an exploration, a part of a whole,” says Rutherford. Each installation feels to her like a chapter from a book – they are completed in a finite period of time, build momentum and background from the last endeavor, and create anticipation for what will come next.

“Spyglass: A Viewing Experience”
by Sarah C. Rutherford & Brandon Colaprete
1975 Gallery, 89 Charlotte Street
Saturday, June 2, 4-10 p.m.
Limited Showings from June 5-16:
Tuesday-Friday 6-9 p.m., Saturday 4-8 p.m.
OurSpyglass.com, 1975ish.com

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“Specimens of the New Growth” closing soon!

Posted in alternative spaces, interview, review with tags , on September 29, 2011 by Rebecca

Through Sunday, October 2, you can still catch Robert Frank Abplanalp’s recent body of work, “Specimens of the New Growth,” at Record Archive (33 1/3 Rockwood St.). I grabbed an evening beer with the artist recently to discuss his work, which is born of an interest in inevitable cycles, and of a fascinated horror over the diminutive, but undeniably powerful, aspects of nature. “New Growth” is innately unsettling, because of the decay from which it emerges.

The works depict “new nature inspired by nature, growing,” says Abplanalp, and are characterized by both horrific and playful vignettes. The subject matter of the paintings, drawings, and found-object sculptures is mainly fantastic imagery derived from the mind of the artist, but based on real plant life, bugs, and the like, as well as “a couple of gods, of course,” says the artist, referring to the “Slug God” and “God of the Soil” works.

This later painting presides as a sort of centerpiece of the show, he says.  In this work, the calm, slightly unfocused gaze of a face emerges from the malleable earth. “It’s based on a Mayan god that I found in a book, and the painting is extremely earthly – I just imagine this god made out of mud, rising out of the soil, and all these bugs living inside of him, and of course he’s very powerful. He is the earth.”

"i found squid head" by Robert Frank Abplanalp, part of "Specimens for the New Growth," currently up at Record Archive. PHOTO PROVIDED BY ARTIST

This body of work has been in progress for a bit, says Abplanalp. “I had been working in my sketchbooks for about the last year and a half, and had been doing a lot of plant life stuff, organisms, and bugs, and thinking a lot of what’s under the rocks, or behind bark, things like that. So the drawings kind of drove the show.” He describes his creation process as animating his ideas in the truest sense: “the way I was drawing was as if the drawings were growing. If I’m drawing a plant, I’m imagining it growing as I’m drawing it.”

Also included in the show are small and large canvases that had been in progress for about three years, which “couldn’t come together until these drawings were done,” says Abplanalp.  “So I concentrated on that, just drawing every day, my own nature.” Additionally, over the past 5 or 6 years, the artist has been playing around with little arrangements of found objects, “some natural, some pieces of industrial rubble, found on train tracks, in the woods, on the side of the road.” Eventually he shaped them into compositions which are also included in the exhibit.

Abplanalp’s reaction to insects is fairly normal and wise mix of interest and caution –  “I’m extremely fascinated by bugs, insects, and spiders and I had this idea that I wanted to start collecting bugs, but I’m also extremely terrified of them. So I don’t know if I can actually do it, because when I get close to them, I feel like I’m going to throw up.” His work thus far has included some found cicada corpses.

As we’re talking, of course, a giant albino spider tightropes its way across the metal grate tabletop, seemingly as disturbed by us as we are by it.

You might note the playful, anthropomorphized nature projected onto the artist’s depictions of the wee beasts, while they still retain their alien, unknowable nature. “They are not like scientific drawings,” he says, “it’s a whole world of stuff going on, so the creatures tend to have personalities…they are kind of playing, interacting with each other in a human way. But they are also reflecting the horror of the unseen world – what’s happening in the dirt, the soil. It’s horrible.”

Go see it: “Specimens of the New Growth: Recent works by Robert Frank Abplanalp.” Record Archive, 33 1/3 Rockwood St. Mon-Sat 10 a.m.-9 p.m., Sun noon-5 p.m. recordarchive.com.