Sunday, March 11, 2018

Tony Dagradi & Gina Phillips at Ferrara

Grammy winner Tony Dagradi is known for his silken modern jazz saxophone virtuosity, a mellifluous lyricism that reveals his mastery of an instrument with no end of potential rough edges. Less known are his sculptural collages. Featuring whimsical juxtapositions of images that read like improvisational visual riffs, they explore the unexpected relationships between moments in visual time in much the way jazz reveals serendipitous resonances between familiar notes and melodies to open up new experiences for the listener. In these works, Dagradi digs deeply, and quite literally, into old books, reworking their imagery to reveal the secret worlds they contain.

Ships and Snakes, above left, is a rhapsodic take on the old European “wanderlust” sensibility, a quest for wonder through exploring the exotica of foreign lands, here depicted via engravings of dinosaur skeletons and Egyptian pyramids, photographs of formidable snakes and flinty explorers, vast oceangoing ships and colorful foreigners in scenes that reflect the old European idea of the world as a frontier to be “civilized” by “advanced” Western peoples--a view that now seems quite quaint. Induction Motors is a maze of engravings of coils, armatures and archaic mechanisms from the early years of electrification. Looking lost among them is a solitary female figure dutifully tending to a mysteriously imposing mechanical device.  Her presence is prescient: then, as now, it is obvious that the machines are really in charge.

Gina Phillips is known for folksy paintings of rural scenes rendered in thread on fabric instead of paint on canvas. During a recent residency in France, where she was inspired by modern masters, she returned to pigments and canvas in a series of works painted on site. She also noticed unexpected parallels with the landscape of her native Kentucky, which resulted in this time and space transcending Crow Valley show exploring the common threads of nature and the human spirit that weave through both places. These gorgeous, often understated works suggest how much seemingly different people and places have in common if we only take a moment to quietly look with open eyes and minds. Books Transposed: Mixed Media Collages by Tony Dagradi; Crow Valley: Paintings and Fabric Works by Gina Phillips, Through March 30, Jonathan Ferrara Gallery, 400A Julia St., 522-5471.