In the years leading up to its biennial with jury, the Center for Maine Contemporary Art organized exhibitions organized around a theme. “Temporality | The Process of Time ”is the second in the series. It tackles “current themes of contemporary art”, following “Materiality | The matter of matter.
Once again, the CMCA proves it has the curatorial skill and patience – this time in the hands of CMCA Associate Curator Bethany Engstrom – to delve into the contemporary art of the region. “Temporality” makes it an attractive and conceptually beautiful spectacle.
Engstrom has chosen an impressive list of several of Maine’s leading contemporary artists. It doesn’t claim to be exhaustive, so it’s not an insult to an artist not included on the show. What she delivers, however, is an introduction to the idea that practice has a counterpart in experience. Let me let Engstrom illustrate.
Gideon Bok often paints in his studio in Rockland, a huge space that houses friends, art tools, musical instruments, and more. But Bok paints what he sees: if Joe sits on the sofa, Bok paints him. If Joe leaves after a few minutes, then we only see part of Joe. When Joe arrives elsewhere, we also see him elsewhere. What we experience is Bok’s subjective and pictorial experience of a place, the transience of human interaction.
Grace DeGennaro has long been one of my favorite painters in the country. She often paints large canvases with points constructed from simple notions, such as a diamond protruding from the center of the canvas. What we see, however, is a mixture of his skill and the impossibility of human sensibilities aligning with geometric ideals. The result is that DeGennaro’s surfaces twist with an organic sensuality like a fabric stretched by the wind. His work quivers and we practically feel the sensual “thrill” of it.
Next to DeGennaro, we have Deborah Wing-Sproul’s “Anonymous Biography”, which features a stack of (very small) blankets and photographs of a character trying to curl up in them. We can feel the reach through the stacking of the covers, the making of the photographs and the creation of the installation. On the other side of DeGennaro’s work is a suite of pieces by Carly Glovinski in which the artist’s drawing gestures mimic the woven gestures of the works she makes. His huge paper work spilling out from the wall to the floor also plays on the logic of a large piece of fiber, and therefore hints that the process included his collapsible presentation throughout.
This main gallery also features the work of Danica Phelps, whose drawings include the accounting logic of both positive and negative spending over the years of her artistic creation. Instead of red and black, however, its look matches the efficient CPU usage grids, and it connects different systems by means of threads running under the group.
Apart from those by Bok, they are all in the main gallery of the CMCA, where each work is made by a woman. The whole gallery practically quivers with brilliance and know-how. Is there a feminine element in space? I think so, and I think the whole show benefits.
“Temporality” also features several strong male artists, in addition to Bok. Clint Fulkerson’s front mural showcases the artist’s now fairly familiar systems logic weaving designs, but with a touch of mathematical presence that resembles the map logic of Dan Mills’ recent CMCA exhibit by including 10 points per walled space. My favorite work on the show might be the electronic works of Jesse Pots which features an old-fashioned looking shovel spinning on its axis in a slow, circular earth orbit on its pedestal and a bunch of rugged flat cards by metal arms moving stones on topographic maps.
Amy Stacey Curtis’ “Clock II”, a shelf of fifty black and white blocks, includes orders / permissions for viewers to shift blocks “at the start of every minute.” Curtis is the oldest recipe-driven installation in Maine, and few of her many works have ever appealed to her strengths like this – quite possibly the most conceptual work of “Temporality.”
By far the most entertaining piece of work on the show is Robin Mandel’s “Entertaining Illusion” (2019) which features a long table, wine glasses, reflective glass and a few spotlights. Using an illusion called “Pepper’s Ghost” (named after English scientist John Henry Pepper, 1821-1900), Mandel presents the viewer with glasses of wine at the end of a long, thin table that appear as often as full, or not. -completed. It’s an ancient technique, but Mandel’s presentation is fresh and fun. It’s a play that takes place in real time, with the theatrical filling of the glass by a ghostly hand, but it’s also a tip of the hat to the story. For these qualities combined with the elegant table, this is one of the most satisfying facilities ever assembled at the CMCA.
“Temporal” not only refers to the real-time presence of viewers and the intensive efforts of the creators, but also to the experience of anyone who encounters the work. In this sense, the fair is a particularly excellent experience for anyone looking to grow with their visits to art exhibitions. The CMCA itself is growing and here we are witnessing another giant leap forward.
Freelance writer Daniel Kany is an art historian who lives in Cumberland. He can be contacted at: