Kristin Sollenberger at Craftland; and Flynn Grinnan

Arresting abstractions
By GREG COOK  |  October 31, 2012

KALEIDOSCOPIC Sollenberger’s Precipitate (mandala).

"Assembled by hand, guided by eye, embracing error and accident, with hope for resolution" is the way Kristin Sollenberger of Wakefield describes the thinking behind "Precipitate," her smashing new show at Craftland (235 Westminster St, Providence, through November 10).

There's honest humility in those words, but they underplay the sure-footedness of her new flower and starburst and teardrop abstractions, which reinvigorate classic Modernist styles with recycled materials (wood, rope, old umbrellas) and a folksy touch.

Sollenberger starts things off sweetly with cute little patchwork appliqué clouds stitched onto stretched fabric. In Origin of Tears, she continues her riff on clouds and rain and drops of water, but turns it knottier by winding lots of blue and white rope around a core of smooth driftwood. It looks like something that washed up on shore all tangled in shreds of fishing nets. Little sticks jut out from the jumble; some support dangling stuffed, fabric teardrops. The soft "tears" contrast with the pointy sticks and the wrapped wood core, which feels both cocoon-ish and prickly like a mace. All of it is suspended by a rope coming down from a pulley and tied off at the wall. Part by part it's all familiar, but Sollenberger adds them all up into something intriguingly fresh and eccentric.

She maintains this lively feel in appliquéd-fabric "paintings." Forgetting is a sensation features a large gray teardrop shape running down the middle of the rectangle canvas. A flower shape in green and black provides accent at the bottom. Up close the gray fabric reveals seams and patches. The edges of the tear are surrounded by triangles of black glossy fabric cut from old umbrellas and arranged in a pattern that repeats, but with a bit of a wobble to keep things from getting predictable.

In Precipitate (mandala), Sollenberger stitches appliquéd patches of gray, red, and black fabric into a big geometric flower or mandala or starburst design. It feels a bit like a kaleidoscope. Bloom is a variation on this composition in bright red, pink, blue, and white. You might detect genetic connections to the loopy blobs of Jean Arp's 1920s abstractions or the hard-edged 1960s Minimalist stripes, targets, and chevrons of folks like Kenneth Noland and Frank Stella. From these foundations Sollenberger fashions spare and simple yet invigorating compositions.

BODY WORK Grinnan’s Out with It.

In April, Providence sculptor Flynn Grinnan presented "Body Presence," a series of ceramic sculptures cast by draping ribbed clay over people. But his method often wasn't apparent in his final bent and folded clay forms. They looked more like fragments or castoffs.

He's back at Yellow Peril with "Fabric Flesh," at the gallery's satellite space (60 Valley St, #102, Providence, through November 4). In these dozen sculptures, Grinnan's technique is much more apparent — to better effect. To make these works, he drapes fabric over scantily-clad models, applies a plaster mold on top, and then casts "starched fabric" impressions of the draped material from that mold. Couples lay together in embraces; a woman crouches on all fours; a figure lies with its legs sprawled open. Some are titillating and sensual in the ways they reveal the bodies' curves. But the way these sculptures operate is pretty basic. Their power mainly comes from their straightforward, factual sense of bodies entombed. If you're in the right mood, they might recall the famous casts of squirming volcano victims at ancient Pompeii. Which might give you a shiver.

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  Topics: Museum And Gallery , Craftland, Yellow Peril
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