Carleton Art Weekend: Connole and Lefkowitz

Any weekend which includes seeing two great art exhibits is a great weekend. Friday, I hit the Carleton Art Gallery for “In Between,” a small and beautiful show by Kelly Connole, the College’s ceramicist, and Beth Lo, who works in mixed media. Lo’s works – especially a charming book on her family’s tradition of mah-jongg – were very nice, but the show is dominated – overrun? by Connole’s ceramic rabbits, which were aw-shucks adorable until I started looking at the details that set them apart from one another: patterns cut into their backs, their eyes and faces, and especially their human hands:

Kelly Connole, Hanna and Hazel (2008)
Kelly Connole, "Hanna and Hazel" (2008)

The rabbits didn’t get less cute, exactly, but their cuteness receded behind considerable intelligence and quite a bit of mystery. The same thing happened, from another direction, with the black birds – crows? ravens? magpies? – that also figure prominently in the exhibit: at first they were worrisome presences, if not slightly threatening ones, but when I looked at them more closely, they revealed their variety and personalities. It was a pleasure to take another few passes around the gallery, looking again and again at the bunnies and birds – and also noticing some other startling works, such as the life-sized “birds” made from stainless steel formed to look like bolts with legs. In short: highly recommended. (The show closes on Saturday, October 17.)

Sunday, the family took a lovely road trip to Rochester to see friends and to take in David Lefkowitz’s sprawling “Other Positioning Systems” show at the Rochester Art Center. The show includes all kinds of Lefkotwitz’s excellent work: sculptures, installations, and many paintings. There were too many jaw-dropping pieces to comment on all of them, but I especially liked the massive styrofoam city, mounted vertically:

David Lefkowitz, Plan 2
David Lefkowitz, "Plan 2"

and the cardboard-and-plywood “Stump #1.” Though my girls didn’t come along to the show, they would have liked the tiny “Detritus” paintings, especially the one of three stacked Cheerios. To me, though, the best piece in the show was a massive “sketch” of a pile of garbage, but actually made not from ink, paint, or even the actual garbage itself, but from sticks and twigs hotglued to the wall. It looked a lot like this, which is to say, stop-in-your-tracks striking. Again, I highly recommend the Lefkowitz show (which runs until January 10, 2010) – and the drive through the autumn prairies and woods to Rochester doesn’t stink, either.

(As someone who works with words and not images or things, I must include an aside: both David’s and Kelly’s artists statements and other texts were perfectly lucid, engaging, and interesting. I’ve “read” – or at least passed my eyes over – plenty of horrible artists’ statements, but these were the utter opposite. Every word helped me understand the art better – even the whimsical names for Kelly’s rabbits!)

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