Art review: ‘Unveilings’ showcases three artists on the rise

By Dorothy Shinn
Beacon Journal art and architecture critic

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Terry Klausman, Harris Stanton Gallery, "Unveilings", featuring Terry Klausman, Joe Van Kerkhove and Kristin Kowalski. "Imminent", colored pencil on paper, 30" x 22"
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Akron’s Harris-Stanton Gallery offers a valuable service to the Akron art community, which has numerous artist-run exhibition spaces, but only a few in the business of selling art.

For art to flourish, it must have both, and it’s a mark of the success of the local fine art and craft community to have one with the discrimination of Harris-Stanton.

The gallery’s early summer offering — Unveilings: Terry Klausman, Kristin Kowalski, Joe Van Kerkhove — is a case in point.

These are artists who’ve proved themselves in the juried- and/or artist-run show circuit, have the recognition of their peers and the arts community, and have built up a body of high-quality, collectible work.

Kowalski and Van Kerkhove are a couple; both graduated from the Columbus College of Art and Design and went on to get graduate degrees in the fine arts.

Van Kerkhove has a concurrent solo exhibit at the Fitton Center Gallery in Cincinnati. “He has 18 pieces here and 18 pieces there,” said Harris-Stanton Gallery owner Meg Harris. “This is his first official show.”

She continued, “He’s a very innovative printmaker. He uses all kinds of materials, sometimes plaster, sometimes tile, sometimes a collage of printmaking techniques and materials.” Indeed, part of the pleasure of looking at Van Kerkhove’s work is trying to figure out how he did it and what materials he’s used.

There’s no question as to what Kowalski uses to make her work, however. It’s clay, and lots of it. She creates fleshy ceramics that do for vegetation what Peter Paul Rubens did for the female form.

Kowalski isn’t satisfied with mere voluptuousness, however. She’s got a push-pull thing going on in her work that’s more in the way of attraction-repulsion.

Yep, there’s more than a dollop of the Little Shop of Horrors in these Brobdingnagian beauties, whose overly ripe and juicy parts look as though they could turn on you at any moment and croon, “Feed me…”

“They are both quite young — in their 30s,” Harris said, indicating that we are likely to see more of them and their work in the future.

And we are likely to hear more about Terry Klausman, an artist that Harris describes as obsessive and prolific.

In this exhibit Klausman presents us with a series of geometrical abstract drawings done in colored pencil on paper, and three treelike sculptures that he calls Umbilicus.

In his drawings his touch is so precise and deft that it’s difficult at first to see that colored pencils are the medium. Rather, we immediately think of the French pochoirs collected and sold by the late Denis Conley. Pochoirs are a print medium, done in a technique similar to silk-screening, but infinitely more exacting and complex.

That someone could come close to that effect using colored pencils is astounding. That he could do it with such a restricted, yet provocative, set of forms is even more impressive.

In this series of drawings Klausman uses three forms: circles, wedges and lines in the guise of barbed wire that allow him, in his words, “to explore the use of non-repetitive pattern and design.”

An Akron native, Klausman is a self-taught artist and sculptor by inclination. “He’s a welder from Barberton and a raw talent who is self-taught in the sense that he hasn’t had any art classes since high school,” Harris explained.

“He received a full art scholarship, but didn’t use it. Instead, he got a job as a welder.”

Klausman began by making fully welded pieces, then created found art and assemblages out of scraps.

In 2011, he was temporarily sidelined by an accident at his welding job, resulting in the temporary loss of use of his dominant right hand.

“He was going cuckoo because he couldn’t weld, so he taught himself to draw,” Harris said.

For 5½ months he trained himself to draw with his left hand and developed the barbed wire line, enabling him to continue to make art while his right hand healed. He’s since regained the use of the hand, but continues to do the work that he began with his left.

Although his accident was, as he writes in his artist’s statement, “very painful and caused some hardship, it turned out to be the single most profoundly positive event in my journey as an artist.”

“His early work looked like ’70s graphic design,” Harris said. “Then one day he brought in what appeared to me to be stitches — row upon row of these things.

“The next thing I knew he walked in with another set [of drawings] on black paper, and we started selling them immediately. We took his work to the Art Expo and he stole the show,” Harris said.

Klausman also has three large sculptures in this exhibit that stand in the gallery window like a grove of pruned bonsai trees.

These are Umbilicus. Klausman described them as the contrasting use of “masculine materials” and “feminine, organic form.”

He said he likes to “create visual tension by making them look tenuously off-balance.” He raised the long, twisting forms from square bases that are rigid and solid to an upward movement of a form that is less tense and increasingly a “flowing, fluid wisp of its earlier self.”

These work wonderfully as a group, resembling a grove of trees aesthetically pruned as one might find in a Japanese garden, a ring of forms, dancers, three graces — Umbilicus could stand both literally and figuratively for all these concepts, its meaning bound only by our own knowledge and imagination.

“They flow, they’re very organic, like grasses or seaweed,” said Harris. “They are outsider, and they also have a kind of Asian feel.”

She added, “He loves those forms and he’s doing a lot of experimenting. Who knows what he will move into next?”

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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