Solo Six

C ardboard is, according to artist Henry Klimowicz, “a valueless material.” Yet what he does with it belies the statement. Klimowicz’s sculptures, crafted mostly from corrugated cardboard and glue, remind us through forms suggestive of the natural world where that ordinary brown medium came from, while at the same time creating something surprising and new.

Klimowicz is one of six solo artists to share their work in Solos 2020 at the Ely Center of Contemporary Art, on view through February 21. Located in the largest upstairs gallery, his Large Collections of Like a Lichen (2020) is one of four sculptures built using thin strips of corrugated cardboard stacked and glued into panels that are then twisted into whorling forms that seem almost animated. The artist apparently had lichen in mind, but think, too, of a fish’s fins or a full, twirling skirt. The logic of the movement is hard to follow through all its turns, but it’s echoed and at the same time more neatly organized in the zig-zagged corrugation that runs through each piece like blood through veins.

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Klimowicz employs cardboard in other ways as well. In two pieces—Kidneys on Rectangle (2016) and Clovers (2017)—the strips form a curtain of sorts, rippling slightly away from the wall. Each serves as backdrop for a botanical theme: kidney-shaped leaves on a vine of wire or three-leafed clovers, all constructed, of course, from cardboard. Another wall hanging is a loosely woven knit of cardboard yarn held together by luminous silver filaments of glue, which serves as the backdrop for several masses of cardboard orbs. Standing in the center of the room are three slender stalagmites topped with brainy cardboard knobs. Together, they’re titled Three Old Men (2010). These unexpected constructions are a compelling meditation on nature, texture, form and even color, where Klimowicz has threaded a few strips of blue cardboard into his mushrooming designs.

Fabric is Melanie Carr’s medium of choice—silky textiles in solid colors sewn with contrasting linings. Carr also treats negative three-dimensional space as an element in her work, attentive to the ways in which her creations cover it. In Shrouded Truth (2020), a red rectangle with a blue lining hangs from an unseen triangular surface like a tablecloth from the corner of a magician’s table. What it conceals is less interesting than the fabric itself, which, with the help of gravity, takes on the shape of the space below the table’s surface. A soft triangle pleats gently at one corner while a cascade of smaller triangles, coyly revealing the blue underlining, falls from the opposite corner.

In another piece, we’re permitted to see what the cloth is covering—sort of. In Breaking Through the Shroud of Despair (2020), a bright pink fabric-covered square peeks from behind another drape, this one red-brown with a pale pink lining. But a trick of the support beneath makes its top edge broader than the square’s. Here, the drape swings off-center, pointing its corners toward the floor. Like a game of hide and seek, Carr’s pieces tap into that childhood—perhaps human—desire to know what’s hiding just out of sight.

It’s not possible to peek underneath the layers of Tony Saunders’s collages, though their layering provides intrigue nevertheless. Saunders seems to hint at stories that will never quite be told, offering the viewer glimpses of newsprint from beneath a gloss of paint and stripes of splattered and dripping color. The edges of these compact pieces are straight—some jutting, some squared—as if they’re trying to organize and contain their own exuberance. In Voices (2020), for example, neatly filled and squared off shapes painted in dark shades from maroon to brown to black are striped with paint. The darkest panel is gilded, striped like a tiger. There’s beauty here, perhaps danger, and mystery in the newsprint seeping through one panel—mostly unreadable, but clearly harboring a story that the piece itself is working to obscure.

Solos 2020 offers up more to appreciate. Brigid Kennedy’s playful casts of pots and bottles and cups form systems of pipes held together with string and wire, jerry-rigged and lopsidedly uncertain. Dan Gries’s computer-generated experiments include a whimsical joke on his own work: a piece titled 180 Cups of Coffee (2020), which presents a neatly organized grid of white cup rims surrounding uniquely brown and bubbly brews viewed from above. Hung beside another grid, Yellow Orange Red Dots (2020), the coffee dots seem to be a teasing response. Finally, Leslie Fandrich’s huge stuffed fabric creations draw microscopic attention to sewn elements that boldly reflect the human body in all its messiness—frayed, puckered and wrinkled, with their seams showing and threads hanging loose.

All six artists in Solos 2020 were selected by ECOCA’s curators from approximately 300 submissions to its open call late last year. An open call for 2021 ended December 30, promising more new work for a new year.

Solos 2020
Ely Center of Contemporary Art – 51 Trumbull St, New Haven (map)
Sun & Mon 1-4pm, Thurs 1-5pm and by appointment
[email protected]
www.elycenter.org/solos-2020

Written by Kathy Leonard Czepiel. Photographed by Maxim Schmidt. Image 1 features work by Melanie Carr. Image 2 features work by Henry Klimowicz. Image 3 features work by Brigid Kennedy.

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About Kathy Leonard Czepiel

View all posts by Kathy Leonard Czepiel
Kathy Leonard Czepiel is Daily Nutmeg's associate editor. She's also a fiction writer, writing teacher and book club troubleshooter. Her perfect New Haven day would involve lots of sunshine, a West Rock hike, a concert on the green and a coffee milkshake.

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