Four Artists Get a Chance to Explore a Master's Territory in 'Donald Judd Remix'

By Shaw, Kurt | Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, April 13, 2011 | Go to article overview

Four Artists Get a Chance to Explore a Master's Territory in 'Donald Judd Remix'


Shaw, Kurt, Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review


With its spare geometrical shapes, solid colors and, to most people, hopelessly little in terms of content, minimal art is rarely on display in museums these days.

Especially here in Pittsburgh, squares and stripes just don't exert the same allure as the pop art paintings in the Andy Warhol Museum or the impassioned expressionist brushstrokes of the Impressionists on display in the Carnegie Museum of Art.

But a small, tidy exhibit of contemporary minimalist works on display at Fe Arts Gallery in Lawrenceville has changed all of that, at least for the moment. Titled "Donald Judd Remix," it features the work of four regional artists -- Jeremy Boyle, Bill Radawec, Mark Franchino and Janet Towbin. All are too young to remember the Donald Judd-Dan Flavin generation that defined minimalism in this country, yet they have managed to create sublime works in their own right.

Minimal art relies heavily on its ability to create a feeling out of the simplest of shapes and forms, which in this setting is somewhat dimmed by the architectural details of the hollowed out storeroom that surrounds the works. When viewing minimalist art, the viewer needs to be patient and wait for the essence of the work to come forth. At that open-minded moment, the clarity and depth of the art can be fully absorbed. Sometimes silence helps, but in this case, Jeremy Boyle's "White Noise" (2008) helps set the mood. Comprised of nearly a hundred tiny white boxes, all containing speakers, it sits in the middle of the gallery, on the floor, and emanates white noise at a low hum. Boyle, whose specialty is sound- based sculpture, has managed to create something here that is both visually arresting and aurally enchanting. It's as if the muses are calling. And not just the artist, but the visitor.

Boyle's white boxes are a sound nod (pun intended) to the work of leading minimalist sculptor Donald Judd (1928-94), the poster boy of minimalism who is the show's namesake. Radawec takes the notion of Judd's smooth, sterile boxes quite a bit further with his installation piece, "A Study" (2007).

Attached primarily on one wall in the gallery, 10 small, simple wooden boxes, set at sporadic heights, look more like barnacles than anything else. Hugging the wall, they otherwise don't look like anything much. …

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