Hera show is mostly on 'The Mark'
By Doug Norris
WAKEFIELD- A mark is a starting point. Just as a musician plucks a string to make a note that vibrates in anticipation of the next note, the artist draws a line, paints a stroke, chisels a piece of stone, looking for a way to proceed in the dark.
It's a way of rubbing sticks. Sparks that make a fire.
With its latest exhibition, "The Mark," Hera Gallery celebrates this elemental component of the creative process. While demonstrating that artists engage in a purposeful act when they make marks, the exhibit also acknowledges that a mark can result from a happy accident (or magical muse) in splattered or dripping paint, crumbled charcoal or torn canvas.
Twenty-six artists are represented in the show, chosen from 82 applicants submitting 240 artworks. In selecting the exhibition pieces, juror Anne Rocheleau said she "sought works where the mark was the message as much as any other internal reference."
Even with that goal in mind, any show this open-ended will generate a wide range of interpretations and responses. In the quest to represent a diversity of media, the collection on the whole is somewhat uneven. But there's still a lot to like here, particularly in work that conveys depth and complexity in addressing the theme.
From a distance Rachel Bers' "Unpronounceable Prayer" looks like a great wisp of smoke twisting in the sky or a hastily sketched tree brancing out. A colser look reveals the scribbles of black marks that shape the giant white paper. In the lower left of the image are two columns of words, beginning with "nighttime" and ending with "prayer." The words- "spellbound," "velocity," "fingertip," "guess," "eternal" -are collections of marks themselves. They illustrate the way marks become symbols that communicate thoughts and feelings in workds and images.
On the other side of the room, an untitled scroll, also by Bers, features white-on-white silk-screen marks on vellum. The work makes you realize how often mark-making is a study contrasts- black ink on white paper, white chalk on a blackboard, side-by-side paint strokes of complementary colors. The scroll is another allusion to marks as writing and communicating. It also evokes an era and a gesture, making another link to mark-making as an expression of human action and chronology.
Max White's viscosity monoprint "Welcome Home #1" is plastered with slashing, swirling marks. The work suggests urban street poster art in its controlled chaos and color, evoking graffiti-splattered subway walls and the back alleys where anonymous artists often leave a mark to say at least they were there.
The two most appealing pieces in the exhibition are interactive. One, a machine by Christy Georg, features long metal rods that look like fingers. At the "wrist," there are forur keys from an old typewriter: WAIT. Under the "fingertips," a scroll of paper rests. When you turn the crank, the machine types out the same word over and over. (In a neat twist, it's not WAIT.)
Georg's mark-making machine communicates only when the viewer participates with the artist, and here the message is visual as well as aural. The metal rods drum against the surface each time a word is typed, making a harsh, flat sound, representing the noise of the word being communicated.
Also achieving a tactile response form the audience are the works of Georgeanne Gonzalez de Salazar, an artist originally from Mexico City. Her "Man and the Other Side of Man" -and the handmade box meant to contain it- is an artist's book, 10 years in the making.
Each new page is an experiment in mark-making, with bits of text, doodles, paint strokes, shreds of paper, lines and shapes, colors and textures and personal objects all woven together.
The artist provides white gloves for people to flip through the work, allowing the iewer to mix up the pages and perhaps even damage the book, which she believes is merely part of its evolution.
Every page is a suprise. There are charmbracelets, feathers, nails, a butterfly's wings, sealing waxand jigsaw puzzle pieces in the mix. Pages are browned with linseed oil. The artist's heritage is revealed in a variety of ways, many of them subtle. An ear of corn rolled in black ink creates an organic design on one page. Abstract strokes on a different page reveal themselves in the shapes of serpents- and ancient Mexican motif- in their shadow prints on the backside.
Another abstract page, whn turned over, shows only the handprint that started the image. The first mark.
Overall, the exhibition reveals "The Mark" to be a dynamic and diverse part of the artistic process. A mark can convey urgency or patience, elegance or uncaring. It is gesture and feeling, an act of the hand and the mind, an intimate act of expression.
"From the gashes on a ship's railing to count days, petroglyphs, the imprint of a hoof, a map in the sand," Rocheleau writes, "marks have helped us survive from the earliest ot fimes and perhaps this is why we cherish them so. When we delight in marks, we delight in perceperion itself. We understand the deep meaning of communication, its tenor, the character of the raconteur, the nature of an experience. Marks come from a deepest need to express and so, define us as humans."
On Hera's floor and walls, "The Mark" leaves a lasting impression.