“Fields”, by Marian McLellan


by Marian McLellan

Nature is a master of multiples, manifesting her prowess with seemingly endless rounds of encore performances. A tree’s bounty of leaves, flowers and fruits not only conveys a sense of well being, but ensures future survival. Rather than merely suggesting, Nature strongly advocates life as a game of calculated chance, and the more chances given, the more likely a return.

Two artists’ independent installations premiering during Julia Street’s “White Linen Night,” substantiate that there really is strength-in-numbers: by repeating a particular motif, each avoids obscurity. If Beverly Fishman”s “Clusters” at Heriard-Cimino or Steve Rucker’s “Hot House” at Arthur Roger Gallery had presented either of their multiple situations as isolated icons rather than collective clones, their respective efforts would have been small, physically speaking, of course.

This is not to diminish the impact of their finalized efforts. No, this observation is made to acknowledge the intimate scale of the parts of each whole and the public’s subsequent involvement upon proliferation of such intimacies. However, of the two artists Fishman, head of the painting department at Cranbrook, maintains a familiar rapport with her audience while Rucker, head of ceramics at Loyola, opts for a sterile, rather didactic engagement in keeping with “Hot House”s” caustic sermon.

Furthermore, Fishman’s abstract, sometimes marbleized paintings on supports of small, plywood discs projecting from the wall invoke scrutiny, whereas Rucker’s multi-disciplinary exhibit prompts one to view each of the three rooms’ offerings en masse. It must be noted that two of Rucker”s installations are fully realized environmentals in the sense that, Hot House in the main gallery, and Subverse in the rear gallery, transform and redirect the public’s freeroam. In the former, the audience must walk around the periphery of seven rows of inverted terra cotta pots whose artificial contents are illuminated from below by yellow, fluorescent tubes. The latter’s stanzaic arrangement of large, block letters usurp the floor space, offset by notations of candy-striped, fluorescent tubes.

Now, with these assessments made, what effect do the artists have on their audience? “Clusters” is an introspective, quiet display of manipulated star and cell imagery. Fishman’s statement asserts an interest in telescopic and microscopic details as they relate to human environment. Thus, laser photographs of these already enigmatic designs act as points of departure to be enhanced with acrylic and resin. We view the stellar arrangement of innumerable discs in B.L. #1-66 and are reminded of a constellation’s uneven boundaries, but the overall pattern of rich blues and whites soon becomes a series of headlights grooving on a spacious sky. And then one thinks of the dazzling effect of light, and concludes that the artist’s subject is actually illumination, and her modus operandi is the physical separation of vertical and horizontal space of the picture plane. On a purely technical note, Fishman achieves a marriage of bas-relief and two-dimension, breaking up surface as she goes, and transforming flattened, intangible images into tangible ones.

Then, view Fishman’s dense, cellular cluster in the much smaller W.R. #1-21. The round black and white details are remindful of a spray of frog’s eggs glistening on water’s surface. In fact, several of the eight wall arrangements evoke egg clusters. But the relatively tiny G.B.S. #1-21, with its impasto application of metallic silvers and golds over cellular photographs, suggests plastic-coated, novelty buttons, falling short of expectation. Success is achieved in the star-inspired, peg-like, P.I. #1-117, possibly because of the greater spacing of the tiny, cool-colored dots.

Fishman presents a view of a pervasive world that exists in compound doses and often goes unnoticed. Likewise, Rucker describes a very physical world whose sinister implications humankind manages to ignore. If one cares at all about the environment, Rucker Hot House is very readable. Almost too much so. With the artificial light from below, we know that there mustn’t be any left from above. But the girth afforded by forty-nine pots sprouting steel-stemmed, industrial plants bearing ceramic leaves and sharp, triangular motif: floral-shaped bills, guns, matches, pencils, red chilis, electric plugs, and fases. Obviously, these are part of our agriculture, what we are sowing into our future “As ye sow, so shall ye reap.” It does happen, you know. And here we have a very sterile and pristine presentation, which on the one hand just doesn’t seem crude enough to befit a rather funky artist. But which, on the other, perhaps does justice to the empty materialism of the present and to the imminent decline of the future.

As lf that isn’t enough to steer you out of the gallery, Rucker requests more air play with a series of polygonal oil and pencil on masonite paintings. This interim space of playful landscapes, which includes the Red Grooms style Bottle Rock Road, acts as levity for the final and most convincing chapter in “Hot House.” Subverse. Here, seven (an odd number indeed), horizontal rows of tar black verse are perched atop jaunty wire legs surrounded by conjure sticks of red and white striped fluorescent bulbs. The overall impact is cagey, Rucker’s rebus is in effect. We can think of many kinds of crossings. Rucker doesn’t allow us to traverse this one, so the only recourse is to read it or leave it. The wordplay comes from a song composed by Rucker, and refers to our chemically induced food production and subsequent pollution, all to increase profit. The words “garden of pain” summarize Subverve’s message of a field made barren by the burden of a greedy few.

And finally, lf we just look at “Clusters” and “Hot House” on purely formal terms, we will see the recurrence of fields no matter which way we turn them. Both Fishman and Rucker are working from this old-timely premise joined by an apparently common desire to discover it anew, with measured degrees of success. They are taking the parts of a universal whole and attempting to extend them beyond our expected range of awareness.