The Chazan Gallery at Wheeler is pleased to present Public Domains, a group exhibition of works by Sammy Chong, Elizabeth Ferrill, Robert Morgan and Brian Shure, from February 16 to March 08, 2017. An opening reception will be held on February 16, 2017, from 5:00-7:00 pm. The public is invited.
Sammy Chong’s work explores the social, physical, and spiritual phenomena of disengagement in public spaces. We pass through subway cars, train stations, shopping malls, and street corners every day, but are we connecting with one another, and with the inner-self, during these transitions? Common spaces make objective the different forms of solitude that are linked to the ever-expanding human density within modern urban centers. Forced to inhabit them with others, the visible distance between people can be a reflection of an intangible, yet deeper personal disjunction.
Plexiglass is found in many of public spaces in the form of windows, wall separations, advertising panels, shop displays, and signs. Chong uses plexiglass to metaphorically represent the reality that it creates by stressing what it signifies. While it is employed to organize and divide spaces, its transparency connotes the invisible barriers which isolate individuals from one another and from the self. By using layers of oils and acrylics on plexiglass sheets to create seemingly banal scenes, Chong encourages viewers to reflect on the multiple levels of meaning often overlooked as we navigate an increasingly complex modern world.
Public spaces are pauses in our daily continuum. The frenetic pace of our modern lives prevents us from actually experiencing these hiatuses—even more so when we are absorbed by one of many technological gadgets. And yet we occupy them embracing the pleasure of anonymity, the comfort of being aloof, the safety in numbers and in the fact that omnipresent cameras observe us for the common good. Instead of emphasizing unhelpful feelings of alienation and loss, hence, Chong attempts to bring forward an awareness of the meditative nature of being both immersed in and removed from the activity around us.
Sammy Chong is a first-generation Ecuadorian from Guayaquil. He comes from a large artistic family of Chinese descent. In his early adulthood, Sammy began a career in Graphic Design, working in an international advertising firm. However, after a near-fatal car accident, he became more aware of, and sensitive to, larger transcendental issues.
Sammy then studied philosophy and theology at Universidad Javeriana, in Bogota, and earned a Master’s Degree from Boston College. Throughout his studies, Sammy developed as a self-taught artist, eventually developing a portfolio based on the labyrinth, and other mythological and spiritual themes. After teaching for three years at the university level in Ecuador, Sammy completed the MFA program at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.
His current professional activities include a position in the Fine Arts Department (Studio Arts) at Boston College. Sammy’s studio practice builds on the concept of individual identity in contemporary urban life.
The vast solitude of the American landscape is the subject matter of Elizabeth Ferrill’s work, particularly places that seem cold but emotionally charged, dehumanizing yet full of personal experience. This includes empty public places that remain tensely suspended within a quiet moment between what has occurred in the past and what will occur in the future.
Ferrill uses the pochoir technique to create her work. Pochoir is a printmaking/painting method traditionally used to hand color images in books. This stencil medium that employs cutout shapes and gouache creates solid, often overlapping forms that converge into hard-edged compositions. Each overlay of shape and color responds to the simplified and functional architectural properties of border crossings, bus stops, motels and sidewalks. The stencil functions as a layer of mediation that implements a control system to her mark-making process. The use of the stencil resonates deeply within the content of her work, flickering between the beauty found in pattern and a kind of disorienting hypnotic realism.
The subjects in the work are all familiar yet under-examined peripheries of the American vista. The pieces exist as simplifications of the complex and paradoxical atmosphere of the public world. Ferrill explores public spaces with a sincere quest for beauty while at the same time acknowledging their tension, functionality, and ability to inherently make a statement about or behavior as human beings.
A native of Seattle, WA, Elizabeth Ferrill received her BFA from Cornish College of the Arts in Seattle, and her MFA from the Rhode Island School of Design in Providence. Elizabeth has had solo and two-person exhibitions nationally and internationally including at Planthouse, NY; Harvey Meadows Gallery, Aspen, CO; COOP Gallery, Nashville, TN; Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts, Omaha, NE; Backspace, Peoria, IL; Artspace, Reno, NV, Virginia Tech Armory Gallery, Blacksburg, VA and 5x6x9 Gallery, Berlin, Germany. She was an artist in residence at the Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts in Omaha, NE. Public collections include the Brown University Library and the Museum of Art at the Rhode Island School of Design.
Robert Morgan’s latest work is a series of large, densely hued paintings which are cut out and glued together to create various visual planes. The paintings are composed of a number of layers of watercolors mounted on other watercolors. The resulting enlarged images and moody atmospheres are an attempt to create an eerie, disquieting transcendence, drawing the viewer into an inner world of emotional and sensual conflict.
In this body of work, viewers are encouraged to participate in the paintings as an ‘absent presence’. The large scale and sensuality of the medium invite entrance into each situation. Objects or people inhabit ambiguous spaces, reminiscent of stage settings where numerous symbolic levels are presented to the audience using backdrops. The viewer may experience an emotional potpourri, depending on the individual’s base associations with the symbols.
People and objects in modern society are often found out of context or alienated from predictable settings – life is complicated and so are the conflicting emotions we experience. Morgan's paintings are about these clashes and the necessity to produce one´s own metaphysical symbols, one´s own myths, one’s own spirituality. Yet the hope and peace in the paintings seem to lie beyond the barriers, abysses or ambiguity, hence the discord. The contrasts -- hard and soft, dark and light, warm and cold, peaceful and threatening -- are juxtaposed against each other, giving resonance to an outwardly simple painting.
Born in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, Robert Morgan’s early interest in art was fueled by the rich traditions of the Berkshires / Hudson Valley region. Even though Bob lived in Buenos Aires, London, Boston, and San Francisco among others, he returned to the area of his youth, living in the Taconic Mountains of Petersburgh, NY, with his artist wife Pennie Brantley.
While Bob’s work sprang from the delicate, sensitive watercolors abundant in the 300 year history of the region, it has grown into huge sculpted pieces that invite a wide, participatory view. Bob is a watercolor painter like no other. With dense pigment, textured treatment of the surfaces and off-beat compositional schemes, he stretches the watercolor medium with respect to content, technique and scale, reversing the ‘precious’ attributes usually associated with the medium.
Bob has exhibited in numerous solo and group exhibitions in museums, universities and galleries on both US coasts. He was also featured in a major retrospective at the Borges Cultural Center in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and was also honored with a prestigious MacDowell Colony Fellowship.
Brian Shure is is a painter and printmaker interested in the representation of people in public spaces, the quiet, quotidian enjoyment of existence and fragile sense of safety and trust—too rare in our world—when we share proximity with strangers. The modeling of forms in illusionistic space and pictorial illusion itself fascinates him, and the way we form an instantaneous—if fleeting—emotional connection to the representation of a recognizable human form is compelling. Only people themselves seem to him more magical, complex and filled with wonder than this possibility of providing an arena for a narrative in a simple, simultaneously available field.
Brian Shure received a BA from Antioch College. He worked as a professional lithographer for 15 years, has published and printed editions under the Smalltree Press imprint, and was a Master Printer and Coordinator of the China Woodblock Program at Crown Point Press from 1987 to 1994. His etchings of Ise-Jingu were printed in 2000 when he was resident artist at Tokugenji Press in Nara, Japan. In 2004 he completed a group of murals for the Pittsburgh Federal Courthouse. In the winter of 2013 he created a suite of prints while in Residence at David Krut Projects in Johannesburg, South Africa, and in the summer of 2015 he completed a print project at Rongbaozhai in Beijing. Brian was a member of the Printmaking Department Faculty at the Rhode Island School of Design from 1996 to 2016. He is now Workshop Production Manager at Gemini G.E.L. in Los Angeles.