by Elizabeth Manson
Photos by Nancy Accomando
Sunday, February 21 was Offramp Gallery’s opening reception for Myron Kaufman’s “Still Perplexed,” Marilyn Cvitanic’s “Watercolors,” Elaine Carhartt’s “Ceramic Sculpture,” and Francesco Siqueiros’s “Paraiso Terrenal/Earthly Paradise.” People braved the somewhat ominous weather in order to view the combination of sculptures, paintings, and installation pieces that took over the entire interior and exterior of this unique gallery.
I have never been to a gallery like this—not only is Offramp an art gallery, but the owners Jane and Chaz live there as well, which gave the opening reception the obvious feel of a sophisticated house party (I say “sophisticated” because the house parties I’m accustomed to tend not to serve brie and hang original works of art on the wall). Just like a party, the hosts introduced me to throngs of people (introversion not allowed), and I happily had conversations with artists and writers alike, while trying my best not to sound too dumbstruck. Some of the best chats I had were with the owners themselves; Chaz happily told me that it’s the greatest privilege to be able to light a fire after visiting hours, and just sit around admiring the art. How can you help but be envious? They even get to throw parties every six weeks to celebrate their redecoration.
But on to the art: Myron Kaufman’s paintings almost literally lit up the walls with his bright and vivid palette. On a personal note, I was immediately drawn to his work because of the abundant use of the color orange (ever since childhood, I have always been drawn to the color orange. What can I say; the color makes me happy; even my shampoo bottles are orange). But color-bias aside, Kaufman’s personality oozes from each of his paintings. One of his paintings is called “Whoopy, It’s Party Time” and features naked geriatrics at a party—how can you not like that? He also tackles politics and cherished childhood stories (Little Orphan Annie anyone?) with a delightful tongue-in-cheek irreverence. His work really spoke to me, since I’m always drawn to a twisted sense of humor (and paired with the color orange? My artistic paradise). I can’t wait to see what he creates for his next project—a children’s book.
In the next room, filled with Marilyn Cvitanic’s watercolors, I couldn’t help but think about my stint as an amateur artist oh-so-many years ago, and how I would smear watercolor across the page, hoping some form would manifest (it never did). Why this digression? Because Cvitanic’s thin lines of colors are so precise and intricate that, almost more than the beauty of her colors and shapes, I was just impressed with the process. The time, the steady hand, and the patience that went into each one her shapes is enough for me to just throw away my brushes in defeat (you know, if I hadn’t already done that years ago). When I had the chance to speak to her, she spoke of her inspiration. After 9/11—she noted that the date for this artistic turning point is somewhat cliché—she markedly changed her style and shifted her style from figures to shapes, most notably grids. Her work is obviously inspired by the grid work of Manhattan’s streets and skyline as well as the microbial geometry she witnessed studying biology. I was so proud I was able to deduce this source of inspiration before being told—I rarely ever “get” things.
When I finally migrated outside (you know, to where the refreshment table was—like a moth to flame), Francesco Siqueiros and I were able to talk (was there anyone here I didn’t get a chance to talk to?) about his “Earthly Paradise” project in which he displays the “garden as sculpture.” How is this achieved, you ask? Well, Siqueiros uses two different approaches: “Garden as Subject” and “Garden as Object.” I was mostly taken with the “Garden as Subject” piece, which was a small garden with scaffolding erected around it. When you climb to the top, you watch videos projected onto sheets of the garden being planted, which involved breaking through cement. How very metaphorical. He explained to me that this attempted to contrast the sacred and the secular, and that the scaffolding serves as a chapel for the sacred garden within. Note: I read on Offramp’s website that some “unruly guest who wouldn’t stop doing gymnastics on the scaffolding” has forced the scaffolding company to remove their equipment. Some people ruin it for everybody. But Siqueiros is busy trying to reconfigure his piece despite this setback.
Elaine Carhartt was the only artist not present at the opening, which is unfortunate, as I would have loved to hear about the inspiration of her adorable and colorful sculptures that peppered the outside. It was just so charming to lounge under an orange tree with my plate of crackers and brie and look down to the smiling face of a colorful little woodland creature hiding under the brush. Really, it can’t be topped.
WHO: Myron Kaufman, Marilyn Cvitanic, Elaine Carhartt, and Francesco Siqueiros
WHAT: Opening reception
WHERE: Offramp Gallery
ADDRESS: 1702 Lincoln Avenue, Pasadena, CA 91103
WHEN: February 21 2-5 P.M.
EXHIBITION DATES: February 21-March 21, 2010