Winter Kudzu, Spring Knives (March 2011)

INDEPENDENT WEEKLY
Visual Art
16 March 2011

WINTER KUDZU, SPRING KNIVES: AT ADAM CAVE AND LUMP GALLERIES, A WARMING TREND
By Chris Vitiello

After a bitter winter, spring has graced the Triangle, which means daffodils, forsythia and new art in Raleigh’s galleries. Before the blossoms and fresh air lure you out into the sun, take in some of the beautiful, obsessive artwork currently on display.

Adam Cave Fine Art is showing a pair of image-makers, Diana Bloomfield and Donald Furst, whose processes inform their works with mysterious qualities that will move you to want to become an initiate.

Diana Bloomfield’s pinhole and alternative-process photography endows her subjects with a hyperrealism. Many of the images are the result of a multicolor gum bichromate process that dates to the 1850s and produces a unique print. This process—which can take days—is similar to offset printing. She brushes an emulsion containing watercolor pigment onto paper, exposes it with a separation negative, develops it and then does it again, layering a different color.

Bloomfield reveals this process in a stunning quartet of portraits of pinned moths and flies. The insects appear neatly within a white square, around which Bloomfield’s emulsion brushstrokes are left visible. This chaotic rainbow perimeter plays foil to the calm images of the perfectly spread luna moth and damselfly, transforming them into kept secrets. A slight imprecision in registration of the colors lends an animate blur to the nocturnal moth, which must vibrate its wings to heat up its flight muscles in the absence of radiant sunlight.

Bloomfield also uses a complicated “platinum over pigment” process, which is explained on a lengthy gallery sheet. But the technical information isn’t necessary to admire the work. It’s her compositional eye in “Winter Kudzu” that recognizes a fascinating undulation in the leafless mesh of vines on bare trees. The platinum gives a radiant Polaroid darkness to the print, which plays up the threatening nature of the viral, ubiquitous plant.

Donald Furst’s engravings and lithography glow with dreamlike potential but resist surrealism. The perspective of his interiors is located in a darkened room that includes an open door to a lighted hallway. Or the image vanishes into a darkening passageway that dimly reveals a corner at its depth. Every doorway permits a swath of light in, which allows Furst to show his virtuosic skill at achieving gradations of gray.

Neither claustrophobic nor creepy, these empty rooms and disappearing corridors are more like being locked in an M.C. Escher office building overnight than stuck in a cyclical David Lynch set. Upon scrutiny, an elaborate mirror trick is perceptible in “Echolalia,” giving the sense of infinite iteration. But in a vitreograph titled “Strive? II,” steps terminate in blind walls, and suspended disintegrating ladders lead nowhere. The meditative precision of Furst’s process becomes slightly anxious in several miniature mezzotints only a couple of inches wide.

Currently the chair of the departments of art and art history at UNC-Wilmington, where he has taught since 1985, Furst possesses an astounding intaglio repertoire. His 13 images include woodcuts, mezzotints, lithographs and etchings. The woodcut “Higher Than” merits a visit all by itself. Put your nose an inch from its surface and scrutinize the detail in an area of treetops from which hewn ladders protrude. Then pick your lower jaw up from the floor.

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