The exhibit “Focus 4: Four Solo Exhibits” is a must see. The artwork of Michael Onken, Steven Robnett and Preston Jackson are symbiotic and elevate the narratives of mundane everyday life to a new level. What amazed me about the subject matter – dancing at a dive, reading the paper, going to a fair- is that these events are what make up life one day at a time. All three artists came to the same conclusion, daily narratives should be cherished. The artists help us to stop and take a look at life’s little events. Even at that, they each share their personal interpretation and life experiences via painting, drawing and sculpture. Of the four exhibits these three spoke to me very clearly.
Michael Onken: What a great tease! His narratives are not definitive, so we are left wondering why is that dog sitting under the table and why did the woman break the clay pot? Kind of like if someone said to you” I would have gone to college if it wasn’t for that horse.” you would try to resolve the sentence and in this case the narrative to a conclusion. Much like many of life’s events there is not a finite end to the story. We know the narrative is the most important part of this work because the artist uses a restrained pallet but nonetheless enjoyable. (I’m a slut for color.) The works are small, kind of like looking through a peep hole in a fence. At any rate, Michael’s work is tons of fun. Give yourself time to enjoy his paintings.
Steven Robnett: We are talking major skill, absolutely precise stunning work with charcoal using multiple forms of drawing media. I totally respect the skill level with charcoal and pencil. Again Steven shares his visual memories with us the sources of which are art historical, newspaper images and personal experiences. In his mixed media (charcoal, colored pencil) piece entitled “Pawn Shop” the narrative is a current conflict in American culture, guns for sale! Guns are displayed on the wall and in the case with one lonely looking violin. The pawn broker looks the viewer straight in the eye. Do we see what he is telling us? Robnett’s artwork is excellent and is rich with meaning and very poignant.
Preston Jackson: Again the skill level is beyond the threshold of outstanding. Preston sees a great deal of humor in life experiences and this comes across well in his art. Quite frankly his work makes me smile. Primarily a sculptor his rendering skills well translate the African American experience in calligraphic line along with the language of color. Muscular expressive figures move across the surface as if the viewer is in the experience. We can feel the tension, music and energy of the subjects living their lives.
Quirky and kind of funky Onken’s artworks tease us into trying to resolve his narratives. Will we come to the same conclusion as the artist? Is it necessary to have the same conclusion? Art is to be experienced by the viewer regardless of the artists’ intention. We all carry our own information (aka baggage) whenever we view art. Our baggage helps to inform our conclusions. The point is to enjoy art and maybe come to some new conclusions. Robnett’s art for the most part makes a clear point. If you don’t like the topic enjoy his work for the skill level because he has studied the renaissance masters and is as good if not better. Jackson’s work is a visual feast of energy and joy. His undulating lines reveal bodies moving in space accompanied by urban rhythms. The exhibit is well worth a visit and you have time -open until October 15th- to take a nice drive to the Illinois Artisans Center up by Rend Lake!!!
Drive safe! Highway 57 is a bitch!