Art Review by Claudia Berlinski
On exhibit at Summit Artspace through November 15 is the work of Allison Elia and Eli Donahue. This is a nicely curated show by Rob Lehr, which include both three-dimensional and two-dimensional work. Each is segregated from the other to allow for each body of work to make its strongest statement.
Upon entering the gallery we are confronted with a quiet and sparse event. The figurative sculpture of Allison Elia owns the space. Slightly smaller than life-size figures are bent into impossible positions sometimes balancing on grossly disproportionate hands and feet, or themselves clumsily balancing objects. It is important to note that each of the figures is female. The artist states that, although she has tried using the male figure, the experience only feels authentic as a female because she approaches life from that perspective. The surfaces of each sculpture are sumptuously glazed or painted with specific points of energy on hands, feet or torso highlighted with a dramatic color change. As a viewer I find that the extra space within the gallery is needed to digest the meanings and implications of each piece.
The artist talks about how she explores the coexistence of guilt and hope, represented through weight and buoyancy, respectively. This is translated, through my experience, as the sensations of both fragility and strength. Although each piece specifically attempts to capture “single climactic moment(s) of internal experience” in individual pieces, I can feel the presence of both in any given sculpture. The artist’s statement is somewhat ambiguous and only allows us to grasp the smallest bit of understanding of her intent. However, the figures, in their distorted and bilateral gestures, speak volumes about tension and the release of that tension.
In Heal, there is a delicate balancing act where the figure is being rained upon by a number of apples. She attempts to manage the lot of them by elegantly reaching for the one most out of her grasp as it tumbles down the center of her back. This piece demonstrates beautifully the fight against gravity that, for the artist, represents hope.
Another piece, titled Deeper Soil, also utilizes the apple – an object fraught with metaphor (the forbidden fruit, the rotten core, planting seeds, Adam’s apple, plucking the fruit, etc.) – this time as a bitten apple. In this case the figure folds under the weight of its burden. As the fruit applies pressure to the horizontal back, color spreads from the contact point like shame, with one hand sharing the guilty act as evidenced by its matching color.
The work of Eli Donahue consists of painted canvasses and painted, stretched organza – a fabric that is translucent and gauzy. The translucent piece and the backlit canvasses reveal physical elements behind the cloth, as well as a contrast of penetrable versus impenetrable visual surface. One can imagine peering down through a heavy fog and discovering great buildings and chaos emerging from an otherwise silent and tranquil environment.
These are the strongest pieces of his body of work. They transcend the painted surface by creating a new space that is both structural and atmospheric. Works like Identity Crisis and Baptism VI are heavenly, exuding delicacy and beauty, fragility and strength. They are worthy companions for the sculptural pieces found in the adjacent room, conveying similar sensations.
The gallery is open 12pm-10pm on Saturday, November 1, 2014 for the Akron Art Walk.
Summit Artspace, 140 East Market Street, Akron, OH 44308
Claudia Berlinski is an artist who teaches at Youngstown State University. She enjoys photographing clouds and dabbles in printmaking/collage. She previously wrote art reviews for Dialogue magazine which was a vital and vibrant print media source for the visual arts in the Midwest. You can contact Claudia at email@example.com.