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Queens Chronicle

Minimalism shows off its warmer side at Gravitas

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Posted: Thursday, September 4, 2008 12:00 am

Putting a female touch on a historically cold, austere and masculine art form, Gravitas — on display at the Dorsky Gallery in Long Island City beginning on Sept. 7 — gives art-goers a peek at a more inviting kind of minimalist work.

The four artists contributing several unique pieces to Gravitas explore the possibilities locked within the cold, prefabricated shell of minimalism, now more than a generation removed from its heyday in the 1960s and 70s. Artists Tara Donovan, Deborah Hede, Rebecca Holland and Susan York, with their use of new and often unconventional materials, breathe new life into one of the most influential movements in 20th century art.

Using familiar, everyday household objects, the artists play not only with geometric forms and color, but texture as well. The result is a warm and fuzzy minimalist revolution, resulting in an array of startlingly approachable and almost touchable pieces.

The artist’s hand is evident in many of the works, with many the result of a series of repeated gestures. The work-intensive aspects of the art on display is one of Gravitas’ most prevalent themes: hard labor.

“It’s about how long these pieces took to make and how hard it is to make them,” said the exhibition’s curator, Jan Riley.

While the artistic process — in the case of the post-minimalistic works at Gravitas, the repetition of a specific movement to create a work of art — the artists’ choice of materials also gives their work a softer edge than the typically bleak minimalistic mindset. Donovan, perhaps the most well known of the four artists, utilized paper plates, Styrofoam cups and drinking straws in her contributions to the exhibit.

Meanwhile, Holland created 40 colorful 84-foot long planks made of melted sugar leaning up against a wall. York worked with solid graphite to produce sleek geometric pieces. And Hede created a series of graphics done in charcoal, where she drew over her drawings so that the charcoal built up layers over time, growing outward off the page — a half inch off the paper in some pieces.

The sheer magnitude of some of the artwork is the inspiration for calling the exhibit Gravitas, Riley said. “Some pieces are very tall. They all have a lot of power.”

Donovan, a Brooklyn-based artist, has studied at the School of Visual Arts, Corcoran College of Art and Design and Virginia Commonwealth University. Her work has been featured at the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and PaceWildenstein. In 2005, she was the first recipient of the Calder Foundation’s Calder Prize.

Hede received her master’s degree from the Art Institute of Chicago and had her drawings featured at the Whitney Museum of American Art and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, in addition to solo shows in Los Angeles, New York and New Mexico.

Based in Texas, Holland received a bachelor’s degree in ceramics and painting from Bennington College in Vermont and a master’s in ceramic sculpture from the University of Massachusetts, North Dartmouth. A former artist-in-residence at the Bemis Center for Contemporary Art in Omaha, Neb. and an adjunct professor at San Antonio College, her work has been featured at galleries throughout Texas.

York, based in New Mexico, received her master’s from the Cranbury Academy of Art in Michigan. A 2007 recipient of a Joan Mitchell fellowship for painters and sculptors, her work can be found in collections around the world, from New Mexico to Switzerland to the Netherlands.

The Dorsky Gallery is a non-profit organization that presents four independently curated exhibitions each year. Located at 11-03 45th Ave., L.I.C., Gravitas will be on display through Nov. 9, with the opening reception to be held from 2-5 p.m. on Sept. 7. For more information, call (718) 937-6317 or go to http://dorsky.org.

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