Art Review: ‘Cellular’ emerges from the shadows

by KATIE COOPER

Three visions are on display in this two-person show at the Louis Carlos Bernal Gallery at West Campus. The show features Mark Pomilio and Susan Beiner, both internationally known artists who teach at Arizona State University in Tempe.

This is curating like it oughta be.

Beiner’s glistening ceramic plant forms seem to germinate in their own clay and explode from every surface – attached to walls, the floor, pedestals – the stuff of earth, poison and water.

Pomilio bridges microcosm and macrocosm with deeply complex abstractions in charcoal and oil that bring to mind the rarified atmosphere and awe of quantum physics, made visible.

And then there’s the unseen hand of Bernal gallery director and curator David Andrés, who combined those two visions in a stunning show where interconnectedness within and between each artwork rules every aspect down to the smallest detail.

Take, for example, the shadows.

Complex overlapping shades of gray fan out beneath the artworks on the wall, perfectly echoing and extending the impact of each piece.

Beiner’s “Unintended Consequences” is a compact cacophony of flora jutting out towards the viewer and announcing itself in a shrill, stifled, pale porcelain voice. It casts one heavy, dark organic pool of shadow, framed by two delicate sister shades riffing on the first.

Pomilio’s “Early Catastrophe” speaks quietly in soft tones of varying charcoal grids disappearing into space, overlaid by emphatic black and white ribbons curving like DNA helixes. Those curves are echoed in a shaped wood mount gracefully lifting the corners from the wall. This in turn creates a multitude of curving geometric shadows, perfectly commenting on the drawing they reflect.

Asked if he had in mind how the shadows would fall when he hung the artwork, Andrés answered, “Yes, absolutely.”

This is a beautifully curated show. Every nuance – from lighting, to the brushed-silver lettering, to even the placement of empty space – serves to highlight visual relationships that bring out the subtle intelligence of each artwork. Strong pieces look even stronger, and weak ones benefit.

In the center room, Pomilio’s supremely confident “C.B.05” rules its own wall, pushing into space like a fractal 3-D stained-glass window. Its rectangular shape repeats in Beiner’s large “Organic Dissolution Drawing,” and its layers of disappearing triangles speak to the lines and shapes vanishing into infinite depths across the way in Pomilio’s “Mulely Point II.” The elegant lines of “Mulely Point II” find a perfect counterpoint in the line-shadows spraying out from Beiner’s “Germinating Domes 1 & 2.”

Pomilio’s artworks are given enough space for a viewer to stand against the wall and see how even the backs carry through the architectural planes and handcrafted detail. Every piece in the show has room to breathe.

When viewed all together, Pomilio’s work can be seen as the cellular-level view of Beiner’s porcelain creations. Or they can appear to be differing expressions of creation itself.

“Cellular” rewards contemplation – the more time you spend with this show, the more treasures it yields. Stay and look, just look. The shadows are just the beginning.

The Louis Carlos Bernal Gallery is also showing work by Mark Pomilio and Susan Beiner at the Tucson International Airport from Oct. 28 to Feb. 3, 2016.

FYI

“Cellular,” Mark Pomilio and Susan Beiner

When: Oct. 26-Dec. 11

Where: Louis Carlos Bernal Gallery, West Campus

Gallery hours:

Mon. – Thurs. 10 a.m.-5 p.m.

Fri. 10 a.m.-3 p.m.

Box Office: 206-6942

Details: pima.edu/community/the-arts/louis-carlos-bernal-gallery

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