On view this March at Laconia Gallery is an unassuming yet satisfying two-person show featuring the work of Danielle Kelly and Gary LaPointe, both BFA candidates from the Art Institute of Boston. This show explores the poetics of the fragmented: the beauty of the discarded, the possibilities of the castoff.
Both LaPointe and Kelly are seduced by objects with a rich past. In collecting these materials, the artists are engaged in an effort to see items reborn without erasing evidence of their former lives. LaPointe's visual lexicon is pulled from the myriad of discarded construction scrap he finds around Boston—items such as weathered wood, rusted rebar, old bricks and dingy bits of rope. Kelly draws her materials from the natural world: dried stalks of tall grass, broken wedges of maple trees, bundles of fallen pine needles, and peelings of papery birch bark. Their work shares a beauty and vulnerability manifest in its unaffected physicality. While initially odd, the juxtaposition of natural and man-made materials creates a yin and yang between the two bodies of work; when shown together, we begin to see the strength of the fallen leaves and tall grasses, the fragility of the concrete and rusted steel.
At their best, these artists seem intimately connected to their materials, working through rather than with them. Yet at times, the work is overly sentimental and occasionally ill-considered. Kelly's installation piece Reiteration falls into this category. It is made of three stacks of fallen maple leaves hanging in long garlands from the ceiling. Here, as in several other instances in the show, the object seems like an afterthought to the act of collection.
The highlights of the show are LaPointe's Configuration #2 and Kelly's Drawing on Paper #2. Serving as the visual centerpiece of the exhibition, Configuration #2 is a large sculptural piece composed of several found objects. An old wooden ladder leans against a wall, with a concrete-filled drawer on steel pipes balancing on the lowest rung of the ladder. Only an old piece of rope tied to a hook attached to the uppermost rung of the ladder seems to keep the assembly from falling apart. As with most of his work, physical tension pulls the work together not only physically but conceptually.
Kelly’s Drawing on Paper #2 is a flattened paper wasp’s nest sewn together with horsehair. While I found the sewing unnecessary and a bit distracting, the delicate textures combined with the careful assembly of swirling patterns created an overall sense of unaltered simplicity, disarming in its loveliness.
Although not all the work is of the same caliber as the stand-out pieces that steal the show, it is, overall, a shining example of high-quality work being produced by an emerging generation of graduating artists. This show is definitely worth a visit.
Danielle Kelly & Gary LaPointe: Force/Fragments is on view at Laconia Gallery through March 24, 2013.