Ceramics by Israel Davis
and Paintings by Katherine Sullivan
Friday, January 9th, 5:00-7:00, with artists' talks at 5:30.
Images and Objects.
and Davis are true modern artists. This is so not only because they are
working in the 21st century, but also because both of
them think of images as objects.
Prior to the modern
period, artists conceived of the canvas or panel on which they were painting
as a transparent window into another reality. The viewer was intended
to suspend disbelief by erasing the art object, and focusing attention
on the distant reality that the artist had cunningly recreated. Thus,
the pre-modern viewer of art looked at images in much the way that we
watch television. That is, we ignore the television as an object and
focus on the drama. In pre-modern art, canvases, stretchers, frames,
and panels disappear into insignificance in deference to the contrived
world of the image.
For modern artists,
artworks became art objects, whether they were images or not. Modernist
artists went to great pains to focus the viewer's attention on the artwork
itself, rather than on another world beyond it. Piet
Mondrian (1872-1944) painted pure geometric
patterns, and even developed a new form of frame to prevent the canvas
being understood as a window. Jackson Pollock (1912-1956) splattered
and threw paint on his canvases to make viewers think about the paint
hitting the surface in front of them, not about any image. One of the
most positive contributions of the 20th century is the evolution
of the artwork into an object, not just a transparent screen.
We see this in
Katherine Sullivan's paintings, especially in her choices of color. Although
her subject, the human figure, is ancient and academic, the startling
combination of, say, vermilion and aqua turns the pieces into insistent
objects in our environment. This development came, for Sullivan, from
exposure to Abstract Expressionist paintings by artists like Mark Rothko
and Clifford Still. Although she was not tempted to replace her figural
themes with pure abstraction, she could not avoid the imposing presence
of these mid-century works as objects. So, she adopted expressive approaches
to color. Her paintings become a hybrid of a traditional figure studies,
(images) and assertive objects in the viewer's environment.
Davis' work crosses more than one boundary. To
begin with, it blurs the distinction between decorative art and fine art.
The tradition of painted ceramics has a long and distinguished tradition,
of which Davis is a 21st-century proponent.
The fact that the objects are not functional, and moreover
hang on a gallery wall make them fine art objects, illustrating the inadequacy
of the distinction in the first place. Davis
also blurs the distinction between image and object. These are images
printed, not on traditional surfaces such as canvas or wood, but on clay;
large slabs of clay. These hefty pieces of earth, with the their rough edges and curved surfaces, remind us constantly
that we are dealing with an object first, and an image second. This physical
presence makes them harder to ignore.
We are presenting,
then an exhibition of objects, not just images. The visitor in the gallery
will enjoy a true encounter with art objects, an experience not accessible
Israel Davis received his B.F.A. from the School of the Art Institute
of Chicago, and his M.F.A. from the University of Iowa. Honors include the University of Iowa Fine Arts Council Grant
and a scholarship from the National Council on Education for the Ceramic
Arts. He has exhibited in group and solo shows in Iowa, Virginia, Illinois, and North Carolina.
He has taught in Iowa City and in Chicago, and has now joined Hope's faculty as a visiting instructor.
Katherine Sullivan received her B.F.A. from the University of Michigan, and her M.F.A. from
Boston Univeristy. Among her many distinctions
are the William J. Branstrom Prize for Academic
Excellence (University of Michigan) and the Richard Ryan
M.F.A. Award (Boston University)
She has exhibited widely in both group and solo shows in Michigan
and Massachusetts. After teaching in both Boston
and Philadelphia, she joined the faculty of Hope College as Assistant
Professor of Painting in Fall, 2003.
The De Pree
Gallery is located in the De Pree Art Center
at the corner of 12th
Street and Columbia Avenue.
Regular Gallery hours are Monday-Saturday, 10 am until 5 pm, and Sunday
from 1 until 5 pm. The Gallery is handicapped accessible. Admission
is free. For more information, call (616) 395-7500.