Stride Arts Presents
Stride Arts is pleased to present our Autumn Exhibition featuring artwork by Kerstin Roolfs, Howard Gross, Elliot Cowan, and Kate Thomas. This exhibition brings together four artists from various backgrounds who have produced bodies of work that at first glance may seem incongruous, and yet, in a shared context, aspects of their distinct practices converge in subject matter or artistic approach.
An interest in history and the human dynamics that shape the world around them has prevailed throughout most of Kerstin Roolfs’ work, yet in these more recent works, Roolfs has turned her examination inward by experimenting with automatic painting to allow the unearthing of the unknown. Popularized by the Surrealists, this technique allowed artists to tap into levels of their unconscious without the hindrance of prescribed form or concept. Four works on paper include a patterned woodcut in the center of each piece, over which Roolfs has painted additional elements by hand. Using varying strokes of ink, Roolfs has painted disembodied heads that gaze at each other or at the viewer. The heads are at times alien-like and at others allude to the Japanese style of manga. Stream of consciousness phrases in English and German figure prominently in Global Beings 1 (2019), reminding the viewer, and perhaps the artist herself, to “Look for community.” In RYBGPO (2019) and the House of the Rising Sun paintings, Roolfs shifts toward the abstract, allowing pure color to dominate. This inquiry into color carries into the V series, in which, inspired by patches in RYBGPO (2019) and being reminded of images in science, Roolfs began sourcing details of microscopic slides, altering them on the computer, and translating them onto canvas.
Kerstin Roolfs - Heads 1, 2019, Ink on Paper
Twenty two works included by Howard Gross relay his lifelong obsession with intricate detail and precision. Since being catapulted into the art world with an exhibition at Allan Frumkin Gallery in Chicago that also served as an MFA presentation, Gross has worked across a wide variety of media. Included works range from paint on canvas to delicate porcelain-like sculpture to more recent pieces, in which an image emerges once Gross has cut away the positive space from a black, inked scratchboard. Six paintings, including You Are Tearing Me Apart (1985) and Landmine Soliloquy (1985), hail from a unique period in the 1980s, when Gross briefly lived in New Orleans, Louisiana, and returned to oil paint. While he is loath to elaborate on or pinpoint any specific meaning behind his work - the act of making art is, for Gross, something innate and almost automatic - a common visual vocabulary can be found. Whether made of paint or clay, his forms always seem to derive from realm of the organic, yet they remain puzzlingly unidentifiable. His densely packed canvases could also be snapshots of microscopic worlds: the turning and twisting elements resemble vegetal webbing, plant-like organs, or cellular and mitochondrial bodies. Made from a molding material that allows him to achieve extreme detail, Helena and Friends 6 (2005) demonstrates Gross’ return to sculpture and the box form, which served as the anchor of an early exhibition in 1974. His characteristic shapes are not bound by medium and they evolve as Gross himself continues to seek out new forms of expression.
Howard Gross - Landmine Soliloquy, 1985, Oil on Panel
Exploring a similar vein of repetition and pattern, albeit through a different medium, Elliot Cowan merges his illustrative skills with his own personal style. After years of producing, directing, and animating various film projects, Cowan has cultivated a unique ability to infuse movement and humor into his artwork. On display are five of Cowan’s prints that highlight how easily he is able to translate the moving image to the non-moving image, including an appearance from one of his recurring characters, Mr. Arms, as well as a digital interpretation of a landscape painting that one almost expects to be animated. The original work on paper, I Told You So (2015), is composed of an abstract pattern rendered in ink and watercolor that builds upon Cowan’s technique of pattern composition and even edges towards the abstract paintings of Joan Miro, whom Cowan cites as an influence.
Elliot Cowan - Vermont, 2017, Digital Giclee Print
Kate Thomas’ vibrantly colorful paintings provide rich bursts of unadulterated hue and shine. Made through a painstaking process of pouring quantities of paint onto resin, Thomas’ glittering paintings at times resemble topographic maps and, at others, are completely otherworldly and seem to offer glimpses into other universes swirling millions of miles away. Yet, Thomas draws inspiration from a more local source, looking to the Earth’s materials and crystals as beacons of energy and light. Thomas developed this technique during a time when her husband was away for a training program, and she found comfort in the calming effects of crystals in her home, which she was then able to incorporate into her canvases. Slices of Cerulean (2019) marks Thomas’ foray into larger scale works as she continues to develop her practice.