Art review: ‘Kaleidoscope’ a disappointment at Summit Artspace

By Dorothy Shinn
Beacon Journal art and architecture critic

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The Alliance for the Visual Arts in Akron, a group representing over 500 local artists from the Akron Society of Artists, Artists of Rubber City, Cuyahoga Valley Art Center and Women's Art League of Akron, presents Kaleidoscope 2013 in the galleries at Summit Artspace from November 15 through December 31. Bowing To The Morning - Acrylic on canvas, 30 x 40 Carol Klingel, Lodi, OH

What a difference a year makes.

Last year Summit Artspace’s Kaleidoscope exhibit showed us outstanding examples of the sophistication to which area artists are capable of rising.

This year we are being treated to specimens of just how far several of them still have to go.

And the weird thing is, some of the same artists have been in both shows. Perhaps the difference can be laid at the feet of the jurors.

The 2012 Kaleidoscope exhibit attracted 103 entries, with 68 placed in the show by jurors Marina Mangubi and John P. Smolko. This year the number of entries increased to 169, and the number juried into the exhibit by Wayne Gruver of Youngstown also went up, to 75.

Last year, I bragged that the level had been set so impressively high by the jurors’ choices that it would constitute a challenge to area artists to rise to that level in years to come.

Sad to say, the works in this show not only don’t approach last year’s level, they aren’t even in the same arena.

The works I saw this year looked for the most part as if they’d been done over half a century ago, by artists whose creative powers and ambitions ceased in the same era.

Somehow, from the same pool of artists who last year exhibited sophisticated works of superior insight and awareness, we have an exhibit that looks as if it’s stuck in the 1940s and 1950s.

What happened?

When I first started doing art reviews, the Akron Society of Artists asked me to give a talk at one of its member meetings. At the end, many of them wanted to know just one thing: How could they compete with the “starving artists” sales held at hotels once or twice a year, with art cranked out by the yard in Southeast Asia and Mexico for pennies on the dollar?

I can’t remember what I said then, but here’s what I wish I’d said: If you see your competition as coming from artists who paint by the yard, then that’s the level at which you’ll settle. And, honestly, I think some of them have.

While the skill level of those who won prizes is high, their works don’t speak to what’s going on in today’s world or today’s art.

On the other hand, there were three or four works that, while completely overlooked by the juror when it came to awards or even honorable mentions, are to my mind among the best in the show.

Interestingly, they are hung together on the Artspace Gallery’s northwest wall: Jerry Domokur’s digital photo print, Moon River in Search of Bananas; Chris Morrow’s digital black-and-white photograph, Tulips in Round Vase; and Stephen Paternite’s digital infrared photograph, Morning Snow, Backyard, Akron, Ohio 2012.

Each of these is not only a technically superior work, it also presents a unique vision of the world executed in a manner that reflects depth of thought and insight.

Mention should also be made of Dialogue/Deliberate, a painted steel sculpture by Katina Pastis Radwanski that is by far the most sophisticated and beautifully executed three-dimensional work in the show.

I think the answer is clear: If you want to present a top-tier exhibit with works that reflect the absolute best our region has to offer, select a juror whose track record demonstrates a high level of sophistication and expectation.

The winners were:

• First: Carol Klingel for her acrylic painting, Bowing to the Morning.

• Second: Tom Baldwin for his wood carving, The Forager.

• Third: Susan Mencini for her acrylic painting, Redemptionscape.

Honorable mentions went to Ted Lawson for his watercolor First Light; Paula Knar for her oil painting Brijette; Linda Thompkin for her silk painting Spring Glory; and Cheryl Townsend for her digital photo Parking Lot Ferris Wheel.

The People’s Choice Award, selected by the votes of gallery visitors, will be presented during the First Night Akron celebration on Dec. 31. The winner receives a kaleidoscope created by Akron glass artist Bob Pozarski.

Free artist demonstrations will be held from 1 to 3 p.m. Saturdays. Registration is not required. Dec. 14 is Bill Peck, mixed media, “Finding Relief;” Dec. 21, Shirley Ende-Saxe, “Collage at HeART;” Dec. 28, Maryann Mosyjowski, “Collage for All.”

The Alliance for the Visual Arts in Akron, which sponsors this show, represents more than 500 local artists from the Akron Society of Artists, Artists of Rubber City, Cuyahoga Valley Art Center and Women’s Art League of Akron.

Dorothy Shinn writes about art and architecture for the Akron Beacon Journal. Send information to her at the Akron Beacon Journal, P.O. Box 640, Akron, OH 44309-0640 or dtgshinn@att.net.


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