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This review by F.R. Rivera was prepared for the January 29, 2003 edition of U.S.
1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.
Art Review: The Ellarslie
Wendell Brooks is a settled artist who found himself
early. Even as a student at Indiana University in the late 1960s,
he gravitated toward printmaking. His very distinctive motifs followed
and have held steady over the past 30 years, during which he has had
more than 20 exhibitions. His color has been equally settled since
the mid-1970s, when he began to narrow his palette and eventually
lapsed permanently into brown.
Michael Gyampo and Michael Gyampo Jr., who are third and fourth
sculptors, are far less settled than Brooks, by all accounts. How
could it be otherwise? Their careers have been shorter, particularly
the career of Michael Gyampo Jr., who is just 14 years old, but is
clearly an emerging artist of considerable gifts.
The work of all three artists is on display at the Ellarslie, the
Trenton City Museum, in Cadwalader Park, to Sunday, February 23.
Both Gyampo father and Gyampo son are inclined to experiment. Because
they use natural materials — stone, wood, bronze — their
are earth colors like warm gray, cocoa, beige, chestnut, rust, and
olive. They have arrived at a palette that is almost indistinguishable
from that of Brooks.
Happily, the imagery of all three artists conveys none of the sobriety
of their color choices. Whether the artists are depicting brawling
teammates ("Squad" by Gyampo) or a young sprinter ("Eat
My Dust" by Gyampo Jr.), or the recurrent Louisville slugger
used by Brooks, most images are unabashed representations of action
figures stripped of ambiguity.
The work of all three artists also includes a small number of more
esoteric representations that invite interpretation. Such a figure
is the half-bird/half-woman that appears in the show’s three most
recent works by Brooks — "Connected,"
and "Discipline," all done in 2002. This figure has the
air of the supernatural and is a welcome shift in direction for
He still hangs on, however, to certain favored symbols — like
his kicking horse or his frontal view of a basketball dribbler that
resembles the ubiquitous NBA logo. In fact, many of the other animals
and figures in his repertoire seem familiar.
They are action snapshots, recast as a master template. By repeating
the images and repositioning them on the page, Brooks creates a kind
of rolling frieze that recalls ancient Greek vase decoration. The
key to his admirable consistency over the past 30 years is that Brooks
has used the same set of templates. His arrangement of the figures
may change but the forms do not. They are assigned to different
of the picture plane in what appears to be a hierarchical order.
Land animals, domestic or wild, game birds or geese, dancers or
equestrians or ornamental fragments, all play their assigned roles,
breaking down into smaller and smaller units, until they finally shave
off into a vermicelli mix of tiny marks.
Brooks is at his best when he mystifies ("Connected") and
invites us to decipher his meaning. The same may be said of the
they are most engaging when they abandon the literal action figures
in favor of the strange.
Gyampo Sr., for example, shows two pieces that could be described
as "space probes" — jury-rigged, half-robot, half-living
creatures. One is a mass of gnarled walnut, like a gigantic root,
all twisted and exaggerated, as its title "Nightmare" would
suggest. It appears to await a countdown, poised to launch, its three
legs touching three black pads.
The second work is a four-legged contraption, perhaps an erstwhile
lunar explorer. It appears to have just touched down, tentatively
and is wobbling like a newborn colt. It is entitled "Get Up —
Gyampo Jr., too, has grasped the value of leaving art
open to interpretation. If a cloud can resemble a galloping horse,
why can’t six ginger roots with arthritic appendages appear to be
Alpine climbers? They can and do in the painted cast bronze he calls
Brooks teaches at the College of New Jersey, while the elder Gyampo
teaches at the Johnson Atelier Technical Institute for Sculpture.
What could be more natural for a father, who is both an accomplished
sculptor and an educator, than to pass his skills along to his
Art history is full of such relationships — from Holbein to Wyeth
to the Gentileschis, art history’s favorite father and daughter
The interaction of parent as teacher, and child as learner, creative
and eager to please, presents the classic formula for making a new
artist, the fusion of nature and nurture. Normally, this is a process
that is slow and incremental. Not so in the case of young Michael
Gyampo, who is a freshman at Princeton High School. He has been
along so fast in his development that it is astonishing to think he
was only born in 1988. The credit for this remarkable development
must certainly go to his father who could provide access to materials
that the young Michael embraced.
Gyampo Jr. squeezed and rolled clay just like any other child. But
when, as a second grader, he created "The Alligator Hunter,"
it must be acknowledged that it was a very special father who had
it cast in bronze.
Doubtless the father made choices as to which pieces merited casting.
His was the educated eye. Today, however, the son’s work approaches
the creative maturity of his father. A studied, side-by-side
will find small technical deficiencies in the work of the younger
sculptor. His carving is somewhat stronger than his modeling, but
he has the potential to close the skill gap before he is a freshman
in art school.
His totem, entitled "Not Again," is similar in temperament
and execution to "Disability Ability" by the father. Carved
in cherry and maple respectively, each work depicts a droll,
figure — possibly reminiscent of the Gyampos’ West African
The figure by the younger Gyampo has an oversized head with flattened
features. The lips seem to bend like a plumber’s elbow joint, ending
as a tubular open mouth.
The father’s figure balances on one footless leg with an air of
look Ma," grinning like a late-night comic. Using the figure to
convey levity or melancholy, as the Gyampos do, is the hallmark of
a good sculptor.
A cherry-wood totem of praying hands and chains — "Justice,
Where Are You?" — may represent the father’s socio-political
concerns, but in the end it is less satisfying than many of his other
Wendell Brooks and Michael Gyampo Sr. differ in a number of
ways. Born in 1939 in Aliceville, Alabama, Brooks is older. Gyampo
was born in Ghana, in western Africa; and he earned his B.A. degree
there in 1978. Their work is compatibly installed, but the two artists
represent two distinct sensibilities: Brooks has a keen sense of
design and a proclivity for order, while Gyampo is affably blunt and
even, at times, untidy. They do, however, show a remarkable affinity
in two pieces that ought to have been installed side by side. These
are "The Way of the Warrior" by Brooks and "Fertility
Figures" by Gyampo. The works — one a print and the other
a sculpture — are almost identical arrangements of three standing
figures. Both pay homage to these artists’ African roots.
This is a show that can be appreciated on many levels. The works on
display trigger a variety of emotional responses. One such provocative
work is "Five Shadows" by the younger Gyampo. This wall piece
is installed outside the galleries in the corridor and is not to be
missed. Five stark shadows are cast by cats — or, more correctly,
what were cats. They have been laundered, shrunk, and wrung flat.
The surface and wrinkled patina of the piece raise questions of
life, and death.
— F.R. Rivera
Ellarslie, Trenton City Museum
Open Tuesday to Saturday, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.; Sunday, 1 to 4 p.m.,
to February 23. Free.
Park, 609-989-3632. Lecture and slide presentation by Wendell Brooks
in conjunction with the three-man show. Free. Saturday, February
1, 1 p.m.
609-924-6700. "Water," the work of Princeton photographer
Susan Hockaday. The large abstract, hand-printed color photographs
feature subject matter from the landscape in Nova Scotia, where she
lives in the summer. She photographs drawings under water in tidal
pools to produce meticulously printed photographs that become a
pattern of shimmering light. Open weekdays, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. To
"11 Septembre et Autres Jours" by French artist Thibaud
Open Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and weekends by appointment.
To January 31.
Last, Memory Yields," an exhibition of photography and mixed-media
works by artist and architect Christopher Becker. Open by appointment
during school hours. To February 7.
Traditional and contemporary Chinese paintings by Seow-Chu See. A
member of the Garden State Watercolor Society, her work has been shown
in group and solo exhibits throughout the area. To March 19.
908-735-8415. "2003 Annual Members Exhibition," juror Rocio
Aranda-Alvarado of Jersey City Museum. "Drawings by John
Process, Reveries, and Accumulations." Tuesday to Sunday, 11 a.m.
to 5 p.m. To March 8.
609-292-6464. "Cultures in Competition: Indians and Europeans
in Colonial New Jersey," a show that traces the impact of European
settlement on the native Indians’ way of life after 1600. On extended
view: "Art by African-Americans: A Selection from the
"New Jersey’s Native Americans: The Archaeological Record;"
"The Sisler Collection of North American Mammals;"
Crossing the Delaware."
215-340-9800. "Randall Exon: A Quiet Light," a solo show by
the Philadelphia-area painter and Swarthmore College professor; to
April 27. "A Home of Our Own," a show that commemorates
50th anniversary featuring the contemporary photographs of Jean
and vintage objects from the State Museum; to April 13. Winter hours:
Tuesday to Friday, 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.; Saturday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.;
and Sunday noon to 5 p.m. Admission $6 adults; $3 students and
Photographs from the Peter C. Bunnell Collection" (extended)
February 3. "The Arts of Asia: Works in the Permanent
to June 30. Open Tuesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Sunday
1 to 5 p.m. Highlights tours every Saturday at 2 p.m.
609-258-3184. "Unseen Hands: Women Printers, Binders, and Book
Designers," a Milberg Gallery exhibition curated by Rebecca Warren
Davidson. To March 30.
School, 609-258-1651. "Africa’s Lunatics," a photography show
by French photographer Vincent Fougere that depicts how Africa cares
for and treats its mentally ill. After a childhood spent in the Ivory
Coast, Fougere spent eight years traveling across Africa to photograph
its bruised souls. Opening reception is Friday, February 7. Gallery
hours are Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. To March 21.
609-771-2198. The juried National Printmaking Exhibition. Gallery
hours are Monday through Friday, noon to 3 p.m.; Thursday 7 to 9 p.m.;
and Sunday, 1 to 3 p.m. To February 1
Avenue, New Brunswick, 732-932-2222, ext. 838. "Personal
an exhibition of works created at the Rutgers Center for Innovative
Print and Paper (RCIPP) in the past year; works by Jim Lavadour,
Booker, and Willie Cole. Open Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 4
p.m. To February 6.
Brunswick, 732-932-7237. "George Segal: Sculpture, Paintings,
and Drawings from the Artist’s Studio;" to May 26. Also:
Cover Design, 1920s to 1930s: The Graphic Face of the
and Stalinist Periods"; to March 30. "Sergei Paradjanov Off
Camera: Collages, Assemblages, and Objects," to March 16. Open
Tuesday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday,
noon to 5 p.m. Spotlight tours every Sunday at 2 and 3 p.m. Admission
$3 adults; under 18 free; and free on the first Sunday of every month.
"Something Old, Something New," an exhibition of bronze
by Doug DeGaetano. Gallery hours are Monday to Thursday, 10 a.m. to
4 p.m. To February 6.
609-586-0616. Fall/Winter Exhibition. In the Museum, new work by glass
artist Dale Chihuly, to April 6. In the Domestic Arts Building
on Sculpture 2003," an annual juried exhibition of photographs
by amateur photographers. Juror is Hope R. Proper of the Perkins
for the Arts. On view to April 6.
Open Tuesday through Sunday, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., year round; Sunday
is Members Day. Adult admission is $4 Tuesday through Thursday; $7
Friday and Saturday; and $10 Sunday. Individual memberships start
Solo show by pop artist Karey Maurice and his exhibit of art from
the 1980s, including works on paper and canvas. To January 31.
Shared show features "Along China’s Silk Road" by David H.
Miller, and "October in Provence" by Ingeborg Snipes. Gallery
hours are Saturday and Sunday, noon to 5 p.m., and by appointment.
To February 9.
Wildlife and nature photographs by Andrew Chen, a veteran nature
whose work has been published in "North American Birds." On
view to February 23. Free.
Pennington, 609-730-1010. Princeton artist Sergio Bonotto exhibits
recent pen and ink and watercolor prints of scenes in Princeton,
and Montgomery. Open Tuesday to Friday, 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.;
5:30 to 9 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 5:30 to 9:30 p.m. To January
Co-op gallery begins the new year with a show of small works of art
by all members. Paintings, drawings, sculptures, prints, and other
gift items are featured. Gallery hours are Friday, Saturday, and
11 a.m. to 6 p.m. To February 2.
Lambertville, 609-773-0881. Monthly group show features celebrity
portraits by James Lucas. Open Thursday to Sunday, noon to 6 p.m.,
to January 31.
609-397-2226. "Simple Pleasures," a solo exhibition of
engravings, watercolor illustrations, pen and ink and tile by Carol
Chernack. "After working overseas in the Philippines, Japan, and
Europe, crossing Siberia on a train, scuba diving in Micronesia,
to climb Mount Fuji along with old ladies in kimonos, getting locked
inside a department store in Finland, and enjoying a photo safari
in Africa, Carol Chernack is happily working on her art and writing
in New Jersey." Dinner served Monday through Thursday from 6 to
9:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays to 10 p.m. Open Sundays, 5 to 9 p.m.
To February 22.
Exhibition of new oils by Jan Lipes of Solebury. Gallery hours are
Wednesday to Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Sunday, noon to 6 p.m. To
6 Lilly Street, 609-397-0275. Show celebrates the re-naming of the
former ABC Gallery. "Works by Michael and Peggy Lewis: From the
1940s to the 1980s" features paintings and drawings by 84-year-old
Peggy Lewis and the late Michael Lewis who died in 1990. The gallery
was created by Peggy Lewis and Barry Snyder after Michael Lewis’s
death. Gallery hours are Monday to Thursday, 1 to 9 p.m.; Friday 1
to 5 p.m.; and Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. To February 7.
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