>re.view< Semantics Gallery
In Review: Semantics Gallery's “distance between ________.”
[approaches to contemporary drawing]
by Daniel Wolper
The Semantics Gallery in downtown Cincinnati had an
opening for Art Academy of Cincinnati students on Saturday Dec 3rd, showcasing the work of 8 students. In its 19th year of operation, the Semantics Gallery is nestled in the shadow of one of the seven hills which surround Cincinnati, in the west end of the district of town known as
Over The Rhine, so named because the neighborhood was bordered on the south by the Miami & Erie Canal, which reminded the primarily German immigrants of the time of their native Rhine River in Germany.
After the canal fell into disuse, the area was the converted into an unfinished subway project, and finally to its present configuration as a main thoroughfare. The Semantics
Gallery is located right along this thoroughfare, nestled below the old canal right-of-way. Along this road, before the event, I pondered in my mind the history of this area. What must life have been like as an immigrant from Germany? What were the sounds and smells? There seemed to be ghosts whispering from the past from the buildings; the architecture still beautiful, but aged and distressed. What memories those buildings have.
Entering the gallery through the side of the building, I could whisper have those old ghosts from the brick grown stronger. Upon entry, the art of Lindsey Henderson greeted me. Her medium seemed to reinforce my feelings, and they served as a metaphor for the entire region. Her work consisted of old grocery bags, both plastic and paper, painted, with yarn strewn about coming from rips. It was as if the bags themselves represented the hopes and dreams of the Over-the-Rhine neighborhood, tattered and torn through neglect over the years, but still meaningful and beautiful.
After helping myself to a few grapes and cookies in the back, the next artist I moved onto was Megan Gertz, in the fore-gallery. Her work was visually stunning, and really one of the highlights of the gallery for me. At first seeming abstract, there seemed to be an order to the energy. Using paint and household cleaners to create chemical reaction, Gertz’s work is reminiscent of the Hubble Telescope pictures of supernovas, and they also channel the energy of the churning waves featured in the work The Great Wave off Kanagawa.
After that was the work of Evan Lautzenheiser. His work seemed to be sort of a work of educational anarchy. The viewer is bombarded with all sorts of information on a whole range of subjects. It is as if all the notes from any class the artist took were placed haphazardly on a large piece. The irony of the piece is that no matter how much one could focus on any small area, no sense of anything could ever be made of anything because of the sensory overload.
John Sloan's work featured a beautifully veneered piece of wood, seemingly Ash, adorned with a collage of various images of people from around the world, primarily from the Middle East. His work seemed to perhaps reflect the spirit of the recent Arab Spring. A green line connects the
eyes of all of the subjects of the collage, almost defacing them. They seem to lose their individuality and instead become anonymous in the context of the piece. It illustrates the power and personality that is communicated through one’s eyes.
Next to that was the work of Hannah Graff, which channeled the dreamy world of surrealism, but in a more abstract way. Graff’s work had both great color and contrast, and was both vivid in its detail, yet still nonspecific in its subject matter. In many ways, it seemed to serve as somewhat of a Rorschach test for the viewer.
Next in line was the expansive work of Cody Gunningham. Gunningham made liberal use of the large space afforded him in the gallery. Calling his work a ‘survey of the curves of time and space’ he creates a swirling scene reminiscent of the work of Joan Miro. The churning scene created multiple layers of depth, even though the piece itself was in two dimensions.
Retreating again to the back gallery, there was the stunning work of Eunha Chung. Chung’s work was another highlight of the night. Using Adobe Illustrator, she created patterns seeming at first to be random. However, as the viewer stares, things seem to become more orderly ever time. This orderliness in the face of chaos seems reflects the artist’s scientific inquiry which resulted in the piece. Chung states that she has recently been “visualizing some interesting related to the sun, such as… energy of the light and mass.” One piece shows a series of rice grains to represent the mass of objects in the solar system, and their ratios. Her work proved to be both thought-provoking and visually appealing.
Finally, I encountered the work of Kerrie Houle. Houle’s work was a series of printed paper with a story written on it. However, significant portion of each page has been whited out, leaving only fragments behind. These fragments serve to tell a story, one in which Houle describes as ‘searching for a concrete, truth; something I can cling to because language has failed me.’ However, as each page is pieced together, a greater story emerges. Houle’s work reminds every artist of the difficulty of the aborted starts and stops that often accompany the creative
In short, the Semantics Gallery in the west-end of Overthe- Rhine is a great atmosphere to keep one’s pulse on the heartbeat of the thriving local art scene in Cincinnati. The skills and talent possessed by those at the Art Academy of Cincinnati was quite evident, and it is great to see the future generations of artists and what they are expressing in a variety of different media.