K8N Collective and the Geography of Scale

by Steve Rockwell

K8N Collective installation view
K8N Collective installation view at Gallery 1313, Toronto

The use of planes, trains, and automobiles are required to get to the place where this article might take us. The cultural product being shipped has triangulation points between New York, Toronto, and the town of Belleville, Ontario. Its cargo designation comes under late minimalism, set in motion here by the Bellville artist collective K8N, and arriving at their Gallery 1313 exhibition in Toronto last November, in all likelihood by automobile. Belleville exhibitors Steve Armstrong and Elizabeth Fearon were joined by the third K8N member Toronto artist Rupen, to produce a thoughtful, cohesive show.

The divergent aesthetic concerns of Armstrong and Rupen, displayed on the walls of the gallery, knit nicely together into a “body of work” helped by Fearon’s six stone sculptures on plinths, which cleaved the show space like the vertebrae of a spinal column. A self-evident human scale gave primacy to the hand of the artist, the burden of meaning falling on the materials employed and their craft.

Richard Serra, Tilted Spheres, 2004, steel, 4.35 x 13.86 12.11 meters overall. Courtest Richard Serra and Pearson International Airport
Richard Serra, Tilted Spheres, 2004, steel, 4.35 x 13.86 12.11 meters overall. Courtesy of Richard Serra and Toronto Pearson International Airport

Some time after beginning my deliberations on the K8N exhibition, I boarded a jet for a winter holiday. To get to the gate at Toronto Pearson International Airport required me (or rather I chose) to walk through Richard Serra’s “Tilted Spheres.” Having previously looked “at” a work of art, I was compelled here to reconcile being an observer “within” a work. Serra’s massive steel forms were carted from New York, where Richard Serra is based. Toronto has a large art scene by Canadian standards, but New York’s is large globally. By this token, Belleville has an art scene, perhaps proportionate to its population of under 60,000, of which the K8N Collective is a part. My own journey in art matches this hop from small to large, with the international ethos a shifting point of reference.

Rupen, Rebounding Energy, 2020, architectural paint on primed MDF, 45” X 45’
Rupen, Rebounding Energy, 2020, architectural paint on primed MDF, 45” X 45’

This fabric of geographic connectivity is the soil out of which much of the art which is presented to us grows. In 2004 Rupen exhibited a series of wall works in wood, beige panels with networks of red lines inspired by railway tracks leading in and out of “the great art cities,” such as New York and Paris. My first exposure to the K8N collective was at Rupen’s show space and home in the Junction district of Toronto in 2019, very nearly where its four lines of track intersect. The K8N name itself is the postal code designation for Belleville. The environment and how the body situates itself within it, has a part in the making of Rupen’s art, who employs a process of distillation that includes a subtle playback loop with each creative adjustment. Rupen views the body as the recipient of life-affirming energy, that is released in the making of each work.

Elizabeth Fearon, Untitled 1, alabaster, 8” x 6 ¼”v x 6 ¼”
Elizabeth Fearon, Untitled 1, alabaster, 8” x 6 ¼”v x 6 ¼”

Fearon’s 1997-03 photo-booth work explored the movement of face and body, having led the artist to considerations of the framed capture of an individual in “official” uses such as passport photos and other licensing protocols. Isolated frame demarcations that form grids apply not only to our immediate urban environment but engulfs the entire globe ultimately. Information networks structure the flow our personal data electronically much the same as air, sea, and land transport does physical counterparts, both synched to their respective red and green lights. These considerations situate the patiently filed facets of Fearon’s stone sculptures within a dynamically alive environment, while the objects themselves evoke a stillness. Each surface performs a sublimation, condensing and purifying all that it absorbs as the work progresses.

Steve Armstrong, untitled, acrylic on plywood, 13.5″ x 15.5″

Surface ambiguity has been an abiding interest to Armstrong, much of his work designed to read as second and third dimensions simultaneously. This playfulness is welcomed in art, but not so much on subway platforms, elevator shafts, and edges of cliffs. Getting the gestalt of what we see around us is obviously important to our survival. Distinguishing the illusionary in our art may serve as helpful training wheels for the real world. We also accept Armstrong’s sly sophistry that drilling a hole in an object doesn’t yield an interior, only more surface. Worms, on the other hand, understand that boring through the skin of an apple doesn’t yield yet more skin, but pulp, something materially different from the apple’s surface. This focus of Armstrong’s art on the nuances of visual perception and the language that we employ to describe it, packs our daily “spectacles” into the retinal arena of our eye – a kind of microscopic Roman coliseum.

The funnel of all fabrication from the hand-manipulated to the mandibles of an industrial-sized forge, channel our compressed experiences through the wires of a common neural network. Viewer and artist tap into the same channels. The twelve meter steel walls of Serra’s “Tilted Spheres” at Pearson Airport close in over heads, and we experience its potential crush in our gut. It makes palpable the cabin pressure in the hull of the jet that we don’t feel, but know is there. The congestion of an urban grid, and its electronic counterpart carries its own crush, which Feoron somehow eases with the honing of her alabaster facets. The filing of the stone subtracts to reveal its material beauty. In the ordering and reordering of the folding ribbon of planes in his “Rebounding Energy” Rupen plays the scales of line and plane to elicit “sound” from a mute form. The fundamental question that Armstrong raises is, “What can I come to know about the object that I see, if what I sense from it is a contradiction?” Whatever the scale and scope of the object in our vista, the neural bandwidth that equips us all is essentially the same.

Hyperphantasia @ Artego

by D. Dominick Lombardi

YoAhn Han, Merman’s Dream (2022), acryla gouache, watercolor, yupo paper collage and resin on panel (all images courtesy of the artist)
YoAhn Han, Merman’s Dream (2022), acryla gouache, watercolor, yupo paper collage and resin on panel (all images courtesy of the artist)

The exhibition title, Hyperphantasia, refers to the capability of experiencing vivid mental pictures. Opening on September 1st at Artego gallery in Queens, NY, artists YoAhn Han and D. Dominick Lombardi will present works that feature some of those visual flashes that often occur during the creative process, where subconscious elements can end up on a painting, drawing or sculpture. YoAhn Han has many sources of imagery, most notably his fluctuating health issues, homosexuality compared with his strict Catholic upbringing, and the fact that he has roots in two very different cultures: South Korea and the US. For most of D. Dominick Lombardi’s career, he has relied on the collective unconscious for guidance and inspiration, resulting in loosely wound drawings, various responses to materials and colors, and visual alternatives received when working. Together, they bring a broad spectrum of what can result with such conditioning, from the powerful and poetic paintings of Han, to the darkly comedic socio-political observations of Lombardi.

D. Dominick Lombardi, CCWSI 126 (2022), alkyd and oil on linen previously painted in 1981 and 2007, 25" x 26"
D. Dominick Lombardi, CCWSI 126 (2022), alkyd and oil on linen previously painted in 1981 and 2007, 25″ x 26″

With Han and Lombardi, the swings in the content of their narratives are multi-layered and visually complex, wound around a strong pull from the past. Han refers to his paintings, which are composed of a variety of painting media, cut paper and resin as an “intersection of the imagery of my homeland Korea, together with Boston, in my own aesthetical conversion.” Han grew up in Chuncheon, South Korea, and maintains a strong bond with that culture. This results in a tendency to fold into his art, representations of the landscape and architecture, mixed with sexual references such as flowers, phallic symbols and the female praying mantis that consumes its male partner after mating – haunting elements that give his art its otherworldly, dreamy feel. In addition, his medical condition, which often causes temporary paralysis, has prompted Han’s obsession with the limitations of being. As a result of all these prompts, Han is clearly reaching for truth, enlightenment and a place where all of the aspects of his life can coalesce in a beautiful and brilliant dreamscape.

D. Dominick Lombardi, CCWS 99 (2020), acrylic, ink and charcoal on paper on canvas, 24" x 38"
D. Dominick Lombardi, CCWS 99 (2020), acrylic, ink and charcoal on paper on canvas, 24″ x 38″

Lombardi utilizes past prompts too, but in a more physical sense, as he often repurposes old paintings and drawings to create his multi-layered narratives. His process includes past life drawings done as classroom demonstrations, subconscious thoughts that inspire the lines of his ‘stickers’, old studies for paintings and sculptures, and previously painted canvases to help him to resolve or reimagine his past. Working often with flashes of shape suggestions, colors and compositional changes, Lombardi is also driven by the fleetness of life. However, what triggers most of Lombardi’s art is reliving past thoughts and experiences through repurposing, the utilization of input from the collective unconscious, and the sway of creative editing. Repurposing also occurs in his sculptures, as all of the objects in his work are found. However, subject to gravity, the structure and result of each sculpture is a bit more preplanned. 

Yoahn Han, Taboo (2021), mica, Acryla gouache, watercolor, paper pulp, yupo paper and resin on panel, 36” x 60”
Yoahn Han, Taboo (2021), mica, Acryla gouache, watercolor, paper pulp, yupo paper and resin on panel, 36” x 60”

The exhibition dates for Hyperphantasia are September 1 – September 30, with an artist reception on Saturday, September, 10. Artego is located at 32-88 48Th Street, Queens, NY 11103.

dArtles: Weekly on the Arts

by Steve Rockwell

Weekly on the Arts hosts Irina De Vilhina and Kyle Shields at Pie in the Sky Studios
Weekly on the Arts hosts Irina De Vilhena and Kyle Shields at Pie in the Sky Studios

In Toronto’s cultural kitchen, a dish named Weekly on the Arts has begun to bubble. Hosts for this upcoming weekly TV show are Irina De Vilhena and Kyle Shields. Featured segments cover visual artists, collectors, curators, museum directors, art magazines, auction houses, art galleries and art dealers. Shooting began this spring at Pie in the Sky Studios, with rushes from the first batch of digital reels already in post production.  

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Liz Larner: As Stars and Seas Entwine

Regen Projects in Los AngelesMarch 27 – May 22, 2021

Detail of Liz Larner work combining plastic refuse with acrylic paint.

“Plastics…were used in furniture, clothing, containers, appliances, just about everything. Sometimes the poisons leached into food or water and caused cancer, and sometimes there was a fire and plastics burned and gassed people to death…. The only place that has enough of it to be a real danger is right here.” — Octavia E. Butler, Adulthood Rites, 1988

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Beverly Buchanan: Shacks and Legends, 1985-2011

Opening at Andrew Edlin Gallery in New York, curated by Aurélie Bernard Wortsman https://www.edlingallery.com
March 20 – May 1, 2021 

An excerpt from the gallery press release: “A storyteller, Buchanan often attached to her sculptures handwritten or typed narratives, which she referred to as “legends,” that gave voice to a cast of characters, some remembered and others imagined. Sometimes she stapled them to the underside of a piece. In one of her favorite works, Orangeburg County Family House, 1993, Buchanan wrote in Sharpie on the outer sides of the structure the names of families from her hometown which she took from her high school yearbook and a calendar from her local church.”

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