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DVAC rings in 2016 with ‘Gesture Control,’ new mural

The first Dayton Visual Arts Center exhibition of 2016 features four Midwestern artists whose unique creative processes produce masterful, and very intentional and evocative works of art.

Gesture Control, the result of the nonprofit’s latest biennial “Call for Artists” juried exhibitions, opens Jan. 15 and runs through Feb. 27. Patrick Mauk, gallery manager for the nonprofit at 118 N. Jefferson St., curated the exhibition.

“The name of the exhibition came from Eva (Buttacavoli, DVAC’s executive director) and I, and is based on the creative process, and how each of these artists are using the creative process to go through a long, arduous journey, and then coming up with very different products,” he said. “A gesture is the beginning of a drawing, but it can also stand on its own.”

Indeed, each artist’s work displays a careful and inventive touch to capture a moment or an emotion in time. Dayton artist Wesley Berg’s large-scale charcoal drawings of hunted animals like wolves and bears are seemingly simple in their stark black-and-white nature, but convey the juxtaposition of a human presence claiming a wild entity through hunting.

“These large drawings are sort of tributes to a lot of those animals who are killed for trophy hunting,” the University of Dayton drawing instructor said. By using charcoal, he added, he’s also bringing the primitiveness of the medium into the “sleek fine art world,” emphasizing the idea of something from the natural world being forced into modernity.

Work by William Potter, an Associate Professor at the Herron School of Art and Design at Indiana University Purdue University, features large and colorful constructed paintings that start out as an old sketchbook drawing, then he “cannibalized thumbnail sized marks from the drawings to create new forms” by photocopying and enlarging portions of the sketch, morphing them, and then translating them via a CNC router to large pieces of plywood. Those are then built up with layers of paint that are scrapped, sanded and scored to reveal layers of color, with a final product that, through both a variety of media forms from sketch to paint to digital editing to milling and sanding, becomes a tangible form that mirrors the evolving and morphing nature of our own thought process.

Tyler Bohm received his Bachelor’s in Fine Arts from Kenyon College, and his Plexiglas works explore notions of artificial intelligence and the hypothetical progression of systems toward agency and self-awareness, and the hypothetical point where “the invention, like brooms in ‘the Sorcerer’s Apprentice,’ has taken over,” he said. Using tools including Computer Aided Design (CAD) programs and laser cutters to generate the components that together make his layer structures, works like his two Peripheral Vision pieces in the exhibition challenge our perspectives, causing us to wonder who’s in control of the narrative: the viewer, the inventor or the object?

Wyoming artist Shelby Shadwell’s large-scale drawings are not always for the faint of heart: he invites the viewer to be slightly disturbed and repulsed by the images of diapers, trash bags, roaches, and tarantulas to reflect disposability, decay, and fear. And yet through his deftness of gesture, these repulsive images are somehow made beautiful.

“The drawings themselves are meticulously rendered…to be objects that are sumptuous and attractive for the audience, and the act of drawing those things in such scale and detail is a form of individual catharsis,” he said.

Friday’s exhibition opening will serve as the unveiling of DVAC’s third site-specific mural, Berg’s Landfell, whose three portions come together to also make a statement on our human presence in the natural world.

Berg, who was commissioned to create the mural separately from the exhibition, took the area’s amenities into consideration when creating the mural, especially for a painting of the Ogollala Aquifer, which runs north to south through eight states from South Dakota to Texas.

“The Keystone Pipeline was going to be built directly over the Aquifer, and any sort of contamination would have been catastrophic,” he said. “This space back here was a little strange, and I liked the idea of the actual pipeline and the drinking fountain going through the painting.” A spattering of Morse Code by the door reads “Men have become the tools of their tools,” a quote from Henry David Thoreau’s Walden.

Landfell, the name being a play on the two words “landfill” and “landfall”,will be on display for about a year, Mauk said.

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