Art review: Check out these two smaller venues’ new digs and new shows

Art review: Check out these two smaller venues’ new digs and new shows

M P Landis, “mp13.14” Photograph by Gary Lowell

There are several well-recognised artwork venues in Portland that surface regularly in this column. But lesser, quieter venues off the crushed route are also truly worth in search of out. Two of individuals have been all around for a although, but have new sorts.

Ocean Household Gallery & Body, operated out of Cape Elizabeth for many decades, has just relocated to an interesting new – and a lot greater – place in the Knightville neighborhood of South Portland. Proprietor Graham Wooden is showing “M P Landis – close to, about” via May perhaps 14.

Mayo Street Arts closed prior to the pandemic to create a wheelchair-accessible entrance and, when shuttered, mounted their exhibitions at the old Nissen Bakery creating on Washington Avenue in the East Conclusion. The initial demonstrate in its “new old” digs is Kifah Abdulla’s “Art – Arabic Calligraphy – And Me” (via Could 26).

It would be a stretch to say these exhibits are associated. Nevertheless, equally do have a person discernible thing in prevalent, which is the tightrope they navigate amongst gesturalism and an fundamental organizing basic principle or buy.

Michael P. Landis, a Pennsylvania-born painter who moved to Maine in 2015, says his operate often has to do with “the dialogue involving procedure and artifact, the executing and the concluded.” That course of action/doing includes imposing a sure order by deploying a grid that is simply seen beneath the surface, possibly as incised lines or a little lifted ones. I’m not certain how Landis achieves the latter, but it appears to be as even though it might be a variety of extensive mesh overlaid with paper and gessoed prior to he commences applying color – primarily blues – around it.

There are evident references to horizon lines, ocean and sky in several is effective, such as “mp13.12,” “mp13.13,” “mp13.14” and “mp13.15.” These numerical titles propose their sequence nature and, without a doubt, they are variations on a similar topic, with some appearing as although the ocean is in the foreground and land masses (represented by black or gray brushstrokes) and sky lay in the length. Many others, this sort of as “mp13.15” with its white foreground, could be snow with the land masses and sky outside of.


M P Landis, “mp13.10” Image by Gary Lowell

A portray like “mp13.10,” even so, does not conform to this strategy, showing rather as a little something far more abstract, although its blue tones and perception of motion nonetheless seem to be to suggest drinking water and, maybe, foam. Paintings like this also convey a perception of higher, much more mysterious depth and, because of it, draw 1 in a lot more seductively (all the works experience sensual in their materiality).

M P Landis, “18.32” Image by Gary Lowell

One more in this vein is “18.32,” a triptych that reveals greens and blacks through gaps in the blanket of blue levels. Its centrifugal electrical power conjures a vortex that suggests oceanic blue holes or occasional eddies. All these paintings have a relaxing, liquid outcome to them. The fundamental grid, in its unchanging regimentation, creates a perception of pretty subtle stress to that fluidity. That rigidity will come from the constant back again and forth among rigor and liberty, stasis and motion.

M P Landis, “21.29” Photograph by Gary Lowell

The friction will get even a lot more charged with two larger performs Wooden hung in a corridor: “21.28” and “21.29.” They essentially consist, like the others, of the underlying grid and grounds of blue and gray. But atop them Landis has designed up ranges of repeating circular designs (in “21.28” they are rendered in in blues, black, pink and beige in “21.29” also, but also more complexly obscuring glimpses of eco-friendly, red and pink below the blue and gray grounds).


The contrast concerning the sq. grid and the spherical styles, the layer on layer of round types, and the tantalizing glimpses of other hues animate these paintings. They sense dynamic and alive in means the other paintings do not, which is not a criticism of the other paintings at all. These simply just have another, far more energetic existence.

The calligraphic or graffiti-like top quality of “21.28” and “21.29” is, coincidentally, an ideal segue to Abdulla’s acrylic paintings at Mayo Avenue Arts. Abdulla is from Baghdad, Iraq. As a youthful art college student, he was uncovered to an Islamic art motion named Hurufiyya, which emerged in the 1940s and ’50s and applied traditional Arabic calligraphy – a strictly rule-certain artwork variety – but recontextualized it in accordance to the ideas of modernist painting. Early progenitors incorporated Princess Wijdan Ali (Jordan), Ibrahim el-Salahi (Sudan) and fellow Iraqis Jamil Hamoudi and Jawad Saleem, amongst other folks.

Hurufiyya’s precepts dwell on in will work by youthful contemporaries these as El Seed (Tunisia), Fereydoon Omidi (Iran) and Khadiga El-Ghawas (an Egyptian lady whose serious name is Khadiga Tarek).

The efficiency and difference of these artists’ operates count mainly on repeating recognizable calligraphy in a ornamental or structural manner. El Seed overlaps people to make a matrix he fills in with vivid colours. Omidi paints thick forests of calligraphy, layering the letters more than just one a different in a framework for his tone-on-tone paintings. And Khadiga El-Ghawas retains the legible type of the characters, but fabricates them utilizing light-weight – both as projections or neon sculptures.

Kifah Abdulla, “Beautiful Vision” Image courtesy of the artist/Mayo Road Arts

A handful of of Abdulla’s paintings share some of these artists’ inspirations. “Beautiful Eyesight,” for instance, has affinities with Omidi’s work. And some, as in “The Poet with a Desire,” appear plainly as script (just about like something Glen Ligon or Christopher Wool would paint if they wrote in Arabic). As I never go through or talk Arabic myself, I are unable to know irrespective of whether these paintings legibly communicate one thing. But by retaining the visual integrity of the lettering and their relationship to language and message, these paintings sense pretty much “readable.”


In most of the functions, having said that, Abdulla pieces firm with his colleagues by pushing the calligraphy practically to the level of illegibility and full abstraction. He doesn’t really get there in “True Adore Is Medicine” and “Searching for the Elixir of Life,” exactly where the “calligraphy” appears virtually like hieroglyphics. Just one wishes Abdulla allowed his summary impulse to absolutely tell these operates. Rather, he adds symbols like hearts or arrows that pull us again into representation and, in blend with the titles, not-so-subtly redirect us towards messages that can feel a small mawkish and contrived (oddly, the titles are unique on Abdulla’s site, in which they deficiency this sentimental suggestibility).

Kifah Abdulla, “Faith” Image courtesy of the artist/Mayo Street Arts

But in paintings like “Longing as a Storm” and “Faith,” the artist propels himself headlong into abstraction and, in so carrying out, generates performs that are powerfully gestural. The people listed here are nearly obliterated, but discernible sufficient to get rid of these paintings from the canon of Western gestural abstraction and give it an individuality of its very own. In simple fact, “Longing” visually shoots us significantly ample East to counsel fashionable Chinese ink brush painting.

Kifah Abdulla, “Longing as a Storm” Photograph courtesy of the artist/Mayo Avenue Arts

There are two regrettable instances dimming the good results of “Calligraphy.” A person is the by-appointment-only factor of the show. Nevertheless it simply cannot be prevented (it’s a pandemic-period staffing challenge), I’m not guaranteed how many men and women will strategy in advance in this way. As the only venue in Portland showing artwork dependent in a Muslim cultural context, having said that, it’s worth carrying out so.

Second is the architecture. Mayo Avenue Arts is located in a previous church, which implies large woodwork and stained glass. The deep blue of the partitions is a horrible foil for the shades in Abdulla’s paintings. Other visual distractions are exits and a concession stand window. These constrict wall room, forcing some paintings to dangle a single on best of an additional or larger than exceptional eye degree. If Mayo actually wants visual art to be a important element of its programming, it may possibly take into account giving the total inside a coat of white or black paint (woodwork bundled) to mitigate these interruptions to the do the job on view.


Jorge S. Arango has penned about artwork, design and style and architecture for more than 35 yrs. He lives in Portland. He can be attained at: [email protected] 

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