Driven to Abstraction at Frank Bette Center

Abstract art just one exhibition up at midtown gallery

The new show at the Frank Bette Center — Driven to Abstraction — is unique in a number of ways. Immediately, the viewer will notice several very large pieces in a gallery usually designed with more but smaller pieces. Arlene Risi Streich’s “Sea Ranch,” for example, is a big, adventurous mixed-media piece arranged in a landscape-like format with a hot yellow sky behind a field of rich texture and color.

Uncharacteristic for this gallery but in accordance with the theme, most of the subject matter is abstract or abstracted. Fred Fago got up close to the side of ships and recorded the texture of their natural wear as an abstract aesthetic design. 

Charles Lucke’s big “Greenman” photo on canvas seems to draw us into a wave of life seething with amoeba and microscopic organisms, unions destined to happen, beginnings beginning. Similarly, Jeanie Moran’s collages, “Ozymandias I & II” make us privy to the moist, seething, creative foment of nature. 
There appears to be a preponderance of photos but, many of the photos have been handled in a way that makes them seem to be media other than photographic. 

For example, George Kaplan’s duo of “Bay Spirit” and “Spirit Walkers” have the quality of pastel drawings, creamy stick color laid on thickly and then smeared deftly with the ball of the hand. His “Ferry Legs” looks juicier and beefier like an oil painting. Michele Bock’s photo of “St. Francis” (yacht club) looks as if it were painted on old silk. 

Barbara James’ “Reflections” were likely found in the water or on metal but they seem like something molten morphing from solid to liquid.

Unlike anything is Barbara di Salvo’s “Lifeline” a pictorial story told with a series of unsophisticated little drawings and columns of sophisticated words together describing progressive states of being. Audrey Brown’s “Estuary” is an elegant tangle of marine ropes which nearly evoke writing but also suggest more abstract 
conditions of connection and dissolution.

In the back room is a solo show of photos by Joel Koosed entitled Wabi-Sabi, Decay, Emptiness and Other Ephemeral Beauty. Much of the work is devoted to pictures of Manchester, Ohio where the photographer grew up. If the photos aren’t black and white, they feel like it. Mostly late in the day, late in the year with a dusting of snow on and around the hardwood trees. No people are shown.

In these photos a cold wind blows through streets where there once was raucous laughter. The sights and sites of Koosed’s ’50s childhood are empty, abandoned or ruined. The back room is rife with fading light, peeling paint, crumbling bridges. The artist waxes philosophical and poetic in written narratives used to give context or reference to the pictures. Koosed has “found beauty in the imperfection of all things as they evolve from and devolve back into nothing.”
Frank Bette Center for the Arts is located at 1601 Paru St. (at Lincoln Avenue). Call 523-6957.

Karen Braun Malpas is a volunteer for the Frank Bette Center for the Arts.