Making marks is the play at the core of drawing and printmaking. Although Rich Gere’s exhibit Here & Now; There & Again at Kibbee Gallery is not particularly ground breaking in the scope of contemporary art today, its clean classicism and deft two-dimensional maneuvers of texture, spots, and calligraphic streaks are neatly presented, gracing the rooms with an air of lighthearted doodling.
Of course, if you read the artist statement, you may expect a whole lot more. Here it is: “Rich Gere continues an exploration of order and chaos. Inspired by nature’s decay and rebirth, the uncertainty of plans and structures and the constant urge to build, organize, and control—the current works are an exploration of our connectivity to the planet and our desires to explain the unknown. The constant redefining of our purpose and need for ever-present meaning in our lives. These works are a step toward connecting the threads between temporal and ethereal worlds; a look into ourselves, while looking outward at the vast workings of time and space.” Wow, that’s a pretty ambitious load. Is Gere being facetious? Or does he really intend to express all of this?
I don‘t mean to harp on it, but sometimes artists just shouldn’t include written statements. This is a perfect case in point. What if—on purpose—no official paragraph-in-the-binder were available? Viewers would be left with only the titles upon which to ponder the work, and this in turn might skew the experience in a more mysterious, perhaps even Buddhic direction. Gere’s titles run the gamut with a random existentialism: All the Tea in China, Quick and Whispers, v = M = |r˚| = |dr/dt|, and Listening to Children. Such abstract verbal morsels should stand alone like the “fluid poetry” of his ink on paper.
Basically, all the works on paper are variations on a similar, centralized, black-ink scribble atop elegant layers of subtle color and surface qualities. Conservative use of aqua, light pink, cream, and purple phase in and out behind the dominant, black abstract characters. The works are very practical in size and price, sensitively framed so as to appreciate the deckled edges. I wish Gere had made at least one really large unframed work, so that repeated emblem—his curious language of ink imprints—could become aggressively graphic, more emotional and uncontained. If indeed his artist statement is sincere, he is enrapt by the fateful physicality of hand or machine on surface. But at the current scale, the potential power of these works and the process that created them are fairly restrained. What would happen if Gere had painted or printed one massive gestural jumble over the mantle and directly on the wall to really rock the boat of this orderly salon? What if he were a bit less faithful to the tropes of professionalism? We are all practicing art out here in the distant outposts of international contemporary norms. Kibbee Gallery is a perfect out-of-the-way place to pull a few bold moves and take some chances. Alas, with only a few extra touches, this show could have been so much more.
And this brings me to my final point: locally, we need to give more attention to the art of curation. Typically, the Ponce Crush galleries depend on artists to curate their own work. But not every artist is adept at the overall presentation of concept and layout. Many local artists are not even aware of the deeper design decisions that can be made to bump up the impact of an exhibition. Too often, the nuances of how the work is laid out, lighted, edited down, or otherwise considered are never explored. And so, the default is to a rote traditionalism—framed works soberly lined upon walls, etc. In turn, gallerists often think of the work as products on display instead of an opportunity for communication. Understandably, these gallerists often have little time left after all their financial and social responsibilities to spend the effort on curation. I think there is a real chance for emerging curators to step in and make our shows better, especially along Ponce!