Sunday, May 17, 2009

Day at Arthur Roger, McGarrell at Heriard-Cimino

Following Stephen Paul Day's progress as a sculptor is at times almost like following the history of the medium itself. He doesn't just work in metal, wood, glass, ceramics and found objects--he gets right down to the basics, even building his own bronze foundry, which became one of the more unusual casualties of hurricane Katrina. This largely porcelain expo is partly a result of his work with the facilities at Kohler, the maker of kitchen and bath fixtures and prominent patron of the arts. Whimsical, psychological and slightly enigmatic, Day's new work elaborates his interest in the parallels between archeology, myths, children's stories and modern life. Perhaps because porcelain tends to be pale and smooth, this is also Day's most subtle show in many moons. Billed as assorted artifacts from a lost civilization buried in the silt of the Mississippi delta, these pieces reveal themselves to be the products of a fertile personal mythology.

CABIN LAND, the title piece, features bronze busts of a pair of dazed looking kids in front of a display of pale porcelain "wooden" planks and a smattering of other objects that look suspiciously like pill bottles. READER TILES suggests pages from an archaic child's reader but with some words misspelled: "I is for Injun." BOY AND CABIN is a bronze of a Tom Sawyer sort of kid contemplating a miniature log cabin that seems to have sprouted mysteriously from a tree stump. In this show, Day evokes a shadow realm where myth, magic and the subconscious all coexist.

A different but related dynamic appears in James McGarrell's colorful A NEW RAGAMALA expo of gouache and watercolor paintings down the street at at Heriard-Cimino. Translated as"a garland of melodies," "Ragamala" refers to a 16th century school of Indian painting that was analogous to that country's nature-based musical traditions. A well known painter with a lengthy resume, McGarrell began his first RAGAMALA series in 2007 as a guest of the Sanskriti Foundation near Delhi, and this is his second series to date. Works such as YAMAN, left, and JAUNPURI, right, can be disconcertingly different in tone and scope from his earlier work, but are also intimate and intriguing--visual variations on the raga traditions of Indian music, evocations of nature, culture and the transformational power of the imagination. ~D. Eric Bookhardt

CABIN LAND: Bronze and Porcelain Sculpture by Stephen Paul Day
Through July 22
Arthur Roger @ 434, 434 Julia St., 522-1999;
HOURS AND SEASONS, A NEW RAGAMALA, Paintings by James McGarrell
Through June 2
Heriard-Cimino Gallery, 440 Julia St., 525-7300,

Expanded from Gambit

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