Julia Barello & Beverly Penn
June 2, 2012 — September 1, 2012
In the Large Gallery
Opening Reception: Friday, June 1, 2012
5:30, Artist Talks
6:00 – 8:00, Reception
In conjunction with the opening of
Texas Masters Series: Piero Fenci–Battlement.
Featuring open studios by current artists-in-residence from 6:00 – 7:00 PM.
Click here to see photos from the opening reception.
This summer, various plants and foliage created from X-rays, MRI film, and cast bronze twist and wind their way up the walls of the large gallery in Interstitial Spaces: Julia Barello & Beverly Penn. The exhibition features two artists who share a background in metalsmithing and an interest in creating large-scale wall installations from small, sometimes delicate, pieces referencing flora and fauna. Their shared interests come together in this lushly ornamental exhibition, which features past works by both artists, along with an entirely new, collaborative wall installation made specifically for Houston Center for Contemporary Craft (HCCC).
HCCC Curator, Anna Walker, commented: “Both Barello and Penn tackle notions of life cycles and semi nature, or the idea of exuding control over the unruly natural elements. Barello explores this theme by using X-ray and MRI films as her chosen materials, while Penn freezes plants in her bronze castings to capture their authentic forms. HCCC is excited to premiere the first collaborative installation by these two nationally prominent, mid-career artists.”
In addition to using unusual materials, both artists explore negative space in their bodies of work. Viewers may find the empty spaces, or interstices, between the ornate structures of their pieces to be just as compelling as the primary forms. The artists say the title of the exhibition, Interstitial Spaces, is also a reference to their new collaborative piece, which is about “the space between their two theoretical dialectics and formal practices.”
Julia Barello’s interest in the use of medical films developed in the late 1990s, when she was intrigued by the approach of viewing the body through X-ray film, a material which alludes to sickness, death and the cycle of life. By deleting patient information from discarded hospital films, Barello compromised the original images; however, the process of cutting up the films gave her the freedom to treat them purely as source material. In Interstitial Spaces, plants, flora and fauna are her inspiration for the shapes she meticulously cuts from the films. Barello creates multiple layers of these intricately cut, semi-transparent shapes, to create several large installations of natural scenes across the walls. In a way, the artist combats the human sickness captured in the medical films by transforming it into life-affirming images of nature.
The impulse to control, contain, order, and organize is ever present in the wall works of Beverly Penn. Penn takes invasive species, or weeds, and casts them in bronze. She is able to freeze and capture a certain curl or shape of the weed and then uses the cast-bronze pieces to create large wall sculptures reminiscent of Victorian wall-paper patterns or Islamic tracery. In Penn’s sculptures, the once-unruly plants are suddenly frozen in time, allowing the viewer to consider the artist’s control over the structured patterns and forced arrangements on the wall. Further reflection causes one to consider the implications of control over nature and how the continual battle between man and nature brings forth innovation, but often at a cost to the environment.
Julia Barello is a professor in the Department of Art at New Mexico State University, Las Cruces. She has exhibited widely across the United States, at institutions such as the Rubin Center for the Visual Arts, Museum of Art and Design, Kentucky Museum of Art and Craft, and Museum of Contemporary Craft. Her work can be found in multiple permanent collections, including those of the Museum of Art and Design, Mesa Arts Center, Isle Royale Natural History Museum, and Museum of Contemporary Craft.
Beverly Penn is a professor in the Department of Art and Design at Texas State University. Her work has been featured in exhibitions across the country and at such venerable institutions as the Austin Museum of Art, Samuel Dorsky Museum of Art, American Craft Museum, and the Contemporary Art Center in Cincinnati. Penn’s work is in numerous permanent collections, including the Cooper-Hewitt Museum, Racine Art Museum, and National Museum of Women in the Arts.
Above images: (1) Beverly Penn, Thatch. Bronze. 2010. Photo by Christopher Zaleski, courtesy of McMurtrey Gallery. (2) Beverly Penn, Maelstrom. Bronze. 2011. Photo by Christopher Zaleski, courtesy of McMurtrey Gallery. (3) Beverly Penn, Five Weeks Time: Allium Canadense, 2012. Bronze, Brass, Glass and Steel Photo by Christopher Zaleski, courtesy McMurtrey Gallery. (4) Julia Barello, Wisteria. MRI and dyed X-Ray films, steel. 2011. Photo by Caroline Brooks. (5) Julia Barello, Wisteria (Detail). MRI and dyed X-Ray films, steel. 2011. Photo by Caroline Brooks. (6) Julia Barello and Beverly Penn, Submerged, 2012. Cast bronze, recycled and dyed X-Ray film, steel. Photo by Zaleski Studio.