The trains that thunder by every dozen or so minutes just a few yards from the oldest standing building in East Rochester are part of the history of the place, which was originally a boarding house off the railroad tracks. The space houses East Rochester's young gallery, Art and Vintage on Main, which is managed by Rosa Arnone, who seeks to make the space into a kind of "mini Hungerford" in the suburbs. The gallery is currently exhibiting its fourth show, featuring young local artists Matthew Tully Dugan and Brett Maurer.
Arnone is a Pittsford native who attended school in south Florida and RIT. When Arnone's family bought the building in East Rochester about a decade ago, her artist mother intended to renovate the place into an artists' space, but day jobs got in the way, Arnone says. The family worked together on renovations for 10 years while renting it out to small businesses, but in January 2012, Arnone decided to move forward with the art-space plans. In March, Arnone left her corporate job to manage the space full time, and opened the gallery on June 23 with a show featuring 23 local artists.
The two featured artists in the current show have worked together for about three years, and have shown work at AVoM from the start. Brett Maurer is a graphic designer and RIT graduate. His works in this show range in style from mixed-media collages to a series of stylized ink renderings that show off his illustration skills. "Denmark Sunset" is a large piece of vibrantly hued fabric hung on the wall, a relic from Maurer's time studying abroad and designing textiles at Marimekko, a Finnish factory favored by Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, who commissioned seven dresses from it.
Maurer's independent artistic interests include pursuing a "system of distilling things down, like a cubist," he says. A series of abstract works in the show were created by taking photos while jogging, simplifying the striated, blurry, "nondescript landscapes down into rigid geometric shapes," he says, and painting those in acrylic. Maurer adheres to the golden ratio in his breakdown of spatial quadrants, but uses angular perspectives in order to confuse the eye. "I try to use abstraction of geometry and abstraction of rule of perspective to create work that speaks to a duality," he says.
"We both embrace chaos as aggressively as we can, but from opposite angles," says Maurer of the works produced by himself and by Dugan. But while Maurer's chaos-seeking work is tight, Dugan is a chaoticist seeking the essential forms within the disorder, whose stark works contain a certain debased, broken-down decadence, imbued with abstract philosophy and yearning.
"I've been focusing a lot on appropriation of artworks that have influenced me the most," says Matthew Tully Dugan. Each work in this show seeks to explore the essence of various artists he respects. One piece, inspired by Matthew Barney, is a plastic garbage bag pulled over stretcher bars, the diamond texture of the reinforced plastic made more evident by coats of white acrylic paint. Slits open to the wall where Dugan has slashed through the makeshift canvas, and the work resembles snakeskin, like something violently shed.
Each piece shows off Dugan's raw way of working with fine and basic materials. Another work, inspired by James Lee Byars, is a massive canvas covered in squares of gold leaf, corners or quadrants overlapping and peeling up. A large pine panel painted with matte black paint has been covered with an indecipherable, manically scripted pattern in chalk, and is a nod to the late Cy Twombly's drawings. A stack of pages with a type-written poem by Dugan, set on a low bench, is a tribute to Felix Gonzalez-Torres' minimalist stacks of paper, which deplete as viewers take pieces of the sculpture away.
A shattered window suspended from the ceiling alludes to Duchamp, the clear-painted word "MESSIAH" visible, backward, as a shadow on the wall. Dugan has been using this word to sign his work recently, he says, in reaction to the Platonic school's dismissal of artists as merely grasping at the forms. Artists seek the essence of things and aim to produce it in a material way, says Dugan.
Music: Looking for a middle-of-the-week doctor? Thunder Body’s Medicine Wednesdays returns tonight, now being hosted at Skylark Lounge (270-8106, theskylarklounge.com), and will repeat every Wednesday night this month. Music starts at 9 p.m., costs $5, and is 21+.