Kindred Beasts: The 2016 Everson Biennial begins with a specific interest in clay and fiber work and a roster of artists who live throughout New York state: in Hudson, Syracuse, Brooklyn and other locales.
After that, the Everson exhibit moves in various directions. It presents sculptures presented in a figurative idiom, works incorporating found materials, hand-woven clothing, non-representational pieces and two installations.
Joe Fyfe often works with materials he finds near his Brooklyn studio or on other streets. “Untitled (Certified Lumber)” combines vinyl signage once used by a business, as well as burlap backing and felt applique. In “Third School,” he has draped a red-and-white cloth over a wood frame.
Syracusan Sarah Saulson has several pieces, including “Pale Green and Blue Shawl” and “Dark Blue Talit.” The latter work is a prayer shawl for Jewish worship, and it’s accompanied by a bag, inscribed with Hebrew words, that is used to hold it. Saulson has been creating hand-woven pieces for more than 25 years; her works at the Everson are just a small segment of her portfolio.
A second fiber artist, Sarah Hewitt, created “No Doubt Your Empress,” made with cotton batting, fabric, string, paint, found glass, crocheted wool and other elements. The work stands tall and evokes a woman but is more than just an offbeat creation. Hewitt seems interested in stripping down fabric and, by extension, garments, as she investigates clothing as a vehicle for conferring social status. At the very least, she’s probing how people are often judged on the basis of appearance.
Sculptor Liz Laurie presents more than 40 of her wood-fired stoneware pieces; they include cups, plates, pitchers, a cradle scoop, and most of all, jars. Laurie is clearly a talented artist, but the jars take it to another level. All of her works are positioned on a long table, and that has an upside and downside. On one hand, viewers will see her pieces in close proximity. On the other, there’s a sense of clutter.
Matt Nolen is a sculptor and a storyteller who creates porcelains decorated with hand-painted or digital images. “Unobtainable Beauty,” a piece shaped like a small hand, has an image of an Asian woman within the palm and images of several women on the back of the hand. “Conversation Compost” is more elaborate, as Nolen constructs a male and female figure, each situated on a long stool. On the floor between them, he has placed a pile of small figures.
Jeffrey Gibson is well represented in the exhibit with different styles of work. “When We Talk About Love” uses not only letters spelling out the title but also glass beads, wool, canvas and other materials over a wood panel. His glazed enamel pieces are quite distinctive. “Waiting for More” has orange, pink and green colors and a split in the surface that looks like a fold, or possibly a tongue.
Bobby Silverman created a complex installation on site at the Everson. It includes digital archival prints on the wall, commercial tiles on the floor, patterns of calligraphy, and wallpaper. Viewers will draw their own interpretations. It seems to draw on architecture, language and other forms of communication in a subtle way.
Finally, Linda Sormin’s installation, “Disillusionment of the Toiler,” is provocative and chaotic. For starters, she works with dirty dishes, cracked dishes, raw clay and streams of glazed ceramics positioned either on wood or on a steel pole that stretches from a wall to a base on the floor. By contrast, a sedate display case housing items made by the long-defunct Robineau Pottery Company sits on the edge of the installation.
This work has lots going on, including plates made at the now-closed Syracuse China factory; a title that draws on the name of a well-known piece made by Adelaide Alsop Robineau; a contrast between the ethos of the Arts and Crafts movement, in which Robineau was a key figure, and industrialization; and a process of using ceramics as an entree to a larger discussion. Sormin’s installation is sprawling, rough and worth way more than a few glances. It’s definitely nontraditional work but well done.
Sequoia Miller and Sheila Pepe, the guest curators for Kindred Beasts, worked from a two-item agenda: discussing ties between clay and fiber, and selecting works that would make up a visually intriguing exhibit. The current show succeeds on both counts, as it connects the media and also presents a variety of interesting work. And the show encompasses installations that challenge viewers.
Kindred Beasts: The 2016 Everson Biennial runs through Aug. 28 at the Everson Museum of Art, 401 Harrison St. The museum is open Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays, noon to 5 p.m.; Thursdays, noon to 8 p.m.; and Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is $8 for adults, $6 for students and seniors, with pay-what-you-wish admission on Wednesdays. For more information, call 474-6064.