Artists Jarrett Mellenbruch and Andrew Sutherland play with our expectations and perceptions - Kansas City
Unique materials stand out in ‘East West Shift to the Middle, Part II’
Artists Jarrett Mellenbruch and Andrew Sutherland play with our expectations and perceptions.
By DANA SELF
Special to The Star
Garbage bags and gongshi have nothing in common. But as strange and alluring bedfellows, they inspire Kansas City artist Jarrett Mellenbruch and Brooklyn-based Andrew Sutherland, two of the 16 artists exhibiting at Bill Brady’s gallery.
These two artists are the highlights of “East West Shift to the Middle, Part II,” the second of Brady’s exhibitions aimed at establishing his presence in the Kansas City gallery arena.
Mellenbruch and the self-taught Sutherland are acutely engaged with the material processes of their work, adding a layer of context beyond the conceptual impulses that inform them.
Mellenbruch’s satisfyingly chaotic “A Busy Solitude” initially may suggest Petah Coyne’s wax-covered objects. But Mellenbruch writes that his sculpture emerges from his interest in Chinese scholar rocks, or gongshi.
His cacophonous work has a counterintuitive empathy with the contemplative nature of the curious scholar rock. The beautiful and sculptural gongshi were removed from their natural locations to serve as focal points of personal reflection, as microcosms for the whole natural world.
The artist’s incorporation of absurdist objects such as tiny clown and kitten sculptures, branches and berries creates a visual Tower of Babel, perhaps also exciting in us deliberation of the weird world at large.
Sutherland’s three works reveal his material eccentricity. Both “Untitled (Red Tape)” and “Untitled (Garbage Bag Painting)” look exactly like red tape and black garbage bags mounted on canvas and covered with a glazy, shiny surface. However, the painstaking process involves applying about 40 coats of paint — pigmented and clear medium — onto garbage bags and a taped box, and then carefully peeling it off the objects to obtain the skin of a painting, which Sutherland mounts to canvas.
The pieces are uncanny, magical and obsessively detailed. While “Red Tape” is his best work in the exhibition, his sculpture “Geode” — plaster, chicken wire and tiny shards of car glass individually glued — is also an exciting triumph of material and process.
Robert Greene’s “Scott,” in his standard semi-monochromatic palette, is composed of his trademark vertical painted lines in horizontal rows. Greene’s rhythmic paintings pulsate. The lines optically undulate up, down and across the canvases.
Kate Shepherd and Gordon Terry explore the vast quietude of space in their dark panel paintings.
Terry’s trippy hallucinogenic blobs floating in space are a delicious counterpoint to Shepherd’s strict geometric forms that divide up her infinite space clustered with tiny white dots.
Other than Mellenbruch’s and Sutherland’s works, Brady’s exhibition is missing a major wow factor that might have felt inventive and unusual. While Brady writes in an email that his goal is “to inform and be a reference for local artists, collectors, and museums of what is current and trending on both coasts,” simply racking up 16 artists on white gallery walls fails, so far, to uncover innovation.
The exhibition is diluted, not strengthened, by the high number of artists. Fewer artists showing multiple works would resonate more deeply, because everybody knows that too many artists spoil the vichyssoise.