A R T   L E T T E R

The Timely Magazine of Art

#46 <previous/ next> Artletter index February 15, 1997

Erik Niebuhr at Purse Bldg. Studios	2/22

One ultra-cool gem of a painting, Spoiled, has an intimacy and oddness
which is intriguing, as well as being the only fresh way of handling text in
paintings I've seen in years: blobby melted forms painted in a painstaking
metallic blue suggest a quasi-obscene slogan, but are so undefined I wonder
if it's my own dirty mind.  I'm not even absolutely sure that it's text. It is
this uncertainty which gives unpretentious works like Spoiled, Small
Brown Sweater, and Shaking Hell  their edgy pull. Niebuhr succceeds where
so many fail: the illegible text is intriguing enough to demand an attempt at
reading. Several works which juxtapose textured panels (like  Maggie's
Treat ) are more arty and expectable.-B.D.

Cowboy boots at HCC central gallery, fine art bldg. rm. 108	2/28

Bootmaking is divided between tradionalists and innovators. Most of the best boots in the show
reinterpret traditional patterns; boots by C. T. Chappell, Sal Maida, and Lisa Sorrell all have the
aparently effortless elegance of technical mastery. Innovators like Rocky Carroll, Gina Guy, and
Patty Abbott strive for novelty but usually end up with literal-minded kitsch. Carroll slaps
graphics commemorating the Republican Convention, the Challenger Disaster, etc. onto his gaudy
boots with the gracelessness of bumper stickers. The few successful innovations are the
highlights of the show: Bill Niemczyk's dramatically textured sharkskin/calfskin and Bo Riddle's
wickedly pointed Spanish lace pattern boots show that growth is still possible for bootmakers in
the postmodern world. -B.D.

Stella in Studio at Uof H's Blaffer Gallery	3/23

Ugly jogging-suit psychedelia applied to walls, exteriors, ceilings, chairs,
like an indiscriminate infection of rococo decoration. Like the rococo it is
the vacant self congratulation of a priveledged class which demands
conspicuous consumption without substance. Oh well; people get the art
they deserve. Ornate, with the pretension of outlandish excess, Stella's
collages and the projects based on them are undermined by a deadening
restraint. As ugly as graffiti without graffiti's aggressive exhuberance. 

The engineering studies which explore the feasibility of fabricating these
monstrosities on an architectural scale are fascinating as engineering
thought-problems. The collaboration of Earl Childress and Frank Stella is a
natural symbiosis: Stella, an old painter, lends his name and signature style 
to a project, in exchange for a revitalized public image. Childress, a young
engineer, is able to work out and realize innovative and risky engineering

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