The first orders a margarita and the shaker of salt goes missing. The second, a pina colada, and the rain starts to fall. And the third, a beer.
By now you’ve realized it’s 5 o’clock somewhere. At that very hour this past Friday, the new exhibit “Energized” opened at the Art Association of Harrisburg (AAH) under the auspices of CEO Carrie Wissler-Thomas and Curator Rachel O’Connor.
The point I am about to illustrate is that art and music go hand in hand. This energetic show of art featured three disparate worlds, put forth by a trio of creative composers using brushes and duct tape instead of baton and musical instruments. Although the latter was greatly in evidence too.
Artists from near and far comprised the group, starting with Mitchel Coffman, “the only living boy in New York” (thank you Paul Simon) who is showing art on a grand scale at AAH through Aug. 29. Coffman’s work is majestic in size and scope as well as in texture and tone. His deft touches with the brush and layers of paint often explore the relationships between beauty and the sexual nature of man. Dramatic intrigue is heightened by the frisson sparked by desire and attraction, often one and the same. Rich in texture, Coffman strips away the layers, deconstructing his art like peeling away the seam of vulnerability on the canvas.
Using “Every Day People” (a nod to Sly Stone) in what could be perceived as the common and mundane routines of life, like getting a trim at the barbershop, encourages the viewer to put themselves in that chair, with the easy banter between barber and customer. Or at his best with standing on a “Stoop in the Bronx” (pictured above), which shines a spotlight on the gang getting together and wanting to be a part of that scene, purely because it is a golden moment in life meant to be savored. Athletes, models and non-professional, interesting faces claim a title to Coffman’s wide range of subjects, especially boxers. But it is the rendering of all that brings a reward equal to the investment made by his audience.
Staged in the main gallery downstairs and part of the second floor, Curator O’Connor upped the ante with her ingenious use of spatial distancing, allowing Coffman and fellow artist, Rone Del Galeone (an artist’s name if ever there was one), to play off each other’s portraits and allow for needed breathing room as their energy was palpable. York-based Del Galeone brought “ed cred” (Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts) as well as “street cred” in two dramatically different approaches to her art. Portraits of children depict the formal side, with one detailed work looking like a modern day “Lord of the Flies.” In addition, some stylized portraits are equally prolific in her repertoire. An interesting group of human expression form a gentlemen’s gallery of roguish demeanors. Flip the record over to the B-side, and her too-cool-for-school “Bitch Face” series captures a culture of complaint. These numbered series are matched with an equally egalitarian array of “Mad Kids” (pictured “Mad Kid #4). All three series are numbered for anonymity’s sake (just kidding…maybe.)
Now, hold onto your senses as you may experience a spinning sensation in entering another dimension. “The room was humming harder as the ceiling flew away” (Procol Harum). We now enter the inner sanctum of Enola artist, Andrew Brodisch, and his trippy, psychedelia-personified room of duct tape-glowing tarps. LED lights made for a surreal, staccato-syncopated, strobe-lit experience back to the ‘70s as mind-expanding experimentation erupted onto the scene. Brodisch creates an intentional invitation to time travel to the era in his “Bonkerville” day glow-colored conflagration of a character comprised of equal parts Ken Kesey, Neal Cassady and Hunter S. Thompson. This work gives a whole new meaning to “jaw-dropping.” “Groovy” doesn’t even begin to capture it. More like “far out man.”
Many hands played a large part in making the afternoon-into-evening reception memorable. Sue Rothman, vice chair of the AAH board of directors, sponsored the event, as well as hosted the summer’s last show before Gallery Walk on Sept. 8. In addition, Jonathan Frazier, Renaissance man, provided the chill vibe, demonstrating temperament and talents with a kitchen sink full of musical instruments. Keyboard and guitar are only the beginning as no instrument is beyond his grasp. Kevin “Cap” Foster, gallery assistant, and Robert Potter serving at the bar rounded out the usual suspects. Thanks to Carrie Wissler-Thomas and Rachel O’Connor for an eclectic aesthetic—both kinetic and frenetic (at times) with “Energized” plugged in at AAH.
“Energized” runs through Aug. 29 at the Art Association of Harrisburg, 21 N. Front St., Harrisburg. For more information, visit www.artassocofhbg.com.