Susan Eley: Engel and Kaleda Explore Female Form

‘Humanity in Pixels and Stone’:  Marble, Digital Imbued with Life

West Side Art Crowd Packs Brownstone Gallery In Early Freeze

Numerical Chemistry by Gary Kaleda: a highpoint of the artist’s talent in transforming digital work with flesh and blood warmth (2011, duraflex silver halide print, face mounted on plexiglass,edition of 10, 48 X 38.4 in)

Two artistic responses to the form and fantasy of the female torso, that eternal preoccupation of humanity, share space this month at the well established brownstone gallery of Susan Eley in her new show, Humanity in Pixels and Stone.  Both displays are richly rewarding in classical ways.

Lilian R. Engel’s monumental torso has the stable harmony of proportion which marks all her work, this one in black marble (Tendu, 2011, marble 22x13x10 in)

A second view of Lilian R. Engel’s Tendu (2011, marble, 22 X 13 X 10 in

The intriguing show kicked off with a packed reception on Thursday January 8th, and will run through Thursday February 19 (open to the public Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday 11am-5pm or by appointment, at 46 West 90th Street, 2nd floor, New York, NY 10024, between Central Park West and Columbus Avenue, as well as on the Web at Susan Eley Fine Art and 1stdibs; tel 917.952.7641 or email: susie@susaneleyfineart.com.)

Nothing like an Upper West Side gallery reception to guarantee down-to-earth intelligent conversation, thoughtful, informative and mildly opinionated

Gallery founder and owner since 2006, Susan Eley is surrounded by guests who also typify the potential the future holds in releasing the entire female half of the world from cultural bondage

Mingling with one of the art world’s more interesting crowds – thoughtfully talkative Upper West Siders armed with funky coats and hats against the freezing weather outside, many long rooted in the fertile soil of New York City intellectual creativity – we admired the exquisite balance and softness of proportion of the abstract forms shaped in smoothed white, pink and black marble by Lilian R. Engel. Her works seemed to have an almost Zen-like repose, evoking respect for as well as appreciation of the female forms which inspired them. Engel is on the staff of the Art Students League as a graphic designer, and sculpts there as well as her own Long Island City studio.

Lilian R. Engel’s white, pink and marble sculptures spring from the female body as a central muse, but take on a life of their own in abstract harmony polished to a smooth sheen by an artist informed by time at Pietrasanta in her journey from Rhode Island to the Art Students League (Seated Figure, marble, 19in h x 13in w)

Marble meets digital in mankind’s oldest fascination

Torsos of the female variety were also the current preoccupation of lanky digital artist Gary Kaleda, present in Pee Wee spiked hair and a red track suit, with his equally tall partner, communications director Susannah Maurer at his side in a very upbeat foliage patterned dress.

Artist Gary Kaleda and Susannah Maurer, who is an expert on corporate and art world communications, and an inspiration for his work

Was Susannah the model he had in mind for his not-so-much pixilated as brush-like photoportraits of divinely fleshy female forms in mostly active, speeding poses? “Oh yes, all of them ” he assured us.   Though in a burst of artistic honesty immediately following this diplomatic statement he added, “Well, I do have some other subjects of fantasy too!”

Behind her back: Is it possible that Gary Kaleda’s mental model for his warm blooded digital images are sometimes not inspired by his long time partner, the much admired Susannah Maurer, of whom a woman friend says, “she has a wonderful face, you can’t stop looking at her! Particle Pageant (2011 duraflex silver halide print, edition of 10, 60 X 43.5 in) “

Kaleda is that exceptional, perhaps unique digital artist that has expanded his attention to include the flesh and blood of real life.  “What I liked about his work is it retains a warmth and humanity,” said Susan Eley, the gallery owner, “which a lot of digital work doesn’t.”

Gary Kaleda’s fantasy women: flesh and blood warm, not digitally chilly (Crimson Me (2010, duraflex silver halide print, edition of 10 28 X 35 in)

Gary’s girl: Not necessarily the one he lives with, which is an artist’s prerogative (2009, duraflex silver halide print, edition of 10, like all Kaleda’s works, 37 X 30 in)

Kaleda starts with a virtual model, which he develops with digital tools and techniques, but he doesn’t stop there.

Gary Kaleda sits in front of one of his obviously virtual models, at the beginning of a process whereby he gives her real life in art on the wall.

“My figures are not from real people,” Kaleda explained. ” I have a virtual photoshoot, as it were, rendering a 3d model, but then I’m interested in imparting my feelings onto it. I’m part of this world and I try to grasp our connection with it, and get beyond the cold, hard, mechanical aspect.”  Susannah is fully supportive, because, as she says, ” A lot of digital work is empty for me. Inaccessible – it doesn’t move me!”

Susannah Maurer takes a pause in chatting with John Eley, the CEO of Golden Source, a financial software company, who as husband of the gallery owner earns credits for doing the heavy lifting involved in some of Susan’s shows

Susan Eley, founder and boss of the gallery since 2006, gives full credit to her husband for being strong enough and willing to carry heavy art objects up the fairly steep steps and stairs of the 90th Street brownstone to the second floor exhibition space.

One thing digital with which Gary Kaleda has enhanced his works recently, however, is the addition of a tiny mark, a QR Code, which allows smart phones to display text and potentially go to text and images on the Web, even video, and offer all the curatorial information about the image they might be interested in.

Aha! A QR Code on Kaleda’s work. His smartphone can read it as an ordinary label of the work but also with a link to the Web it could potentially play a video of Gary explaining his image (Pink Celebration 1 (2012), Duraflex silver halide print, face mounted on plexiglass, 41.25 x 30 inches, edition 1/10).

A quieter side of woman’s form

In hand-in-hand harmony with Kaleda’s high energy, even red hot variations on the parallel topic of the human body the smaller scale but still Henry Moore-like abstract statuary by Lilian Engel on pedestals around the gallery matched his emotional dynamism with some boldly assertive standing pieces.  But most of her seven polished tactile temptations lay in calm repose, their smoothly varied contours making for a quiet aesthetic that suggested some of these in fact very heavy objects were light enough to float off their stands.

Different views of the core focus of so much art through the ages from the Venus of Willendorf through the Venus de Milo and the Venus of Botticelli to the Venuses of the Upper West Side, 2015 (Lilian Engel, Seated Figure, marble, 19in h x 13in w)

Engel, who works as graphic designer director at the Art Students League while not carving and polishing marble (and more lately wood, under her mentor Seiji Saito, a Noguchi disciple) in one of its studios or her own, said that she had pursued figurative clay sculpture so long in her early career that if her focus is now on the torso, “I guess I was a student so long it’s just in me.”  Torsos, she added, “are the most exciting part of the figure, because there is so much motion in them. I think of bodies in motion, and I want to get the stone into movement, out of its confined space. Often, it becomes a back and forth play.”

Lilian Engel details her modus operandi to a group of attentive admirers (Recline, pink marble, abstract 10in h x 12in w)

A closer look at the exquisitely formed white marble form she is discussing, one of her remarkably successful takes on the basic female reclining form (Recline, pink marble, abstract
10in h x 12in w)

Explaining to a small group gathered round one of her works in creamy white marble, she said she sometimes skipped making a model in clay first, but “if it’s a big piece of marble  I don’t like to take chances.  My process is usually an intuitive one.”   With her was her man Brad Whitermore, a wood craftsman and also a sculptor, who she met in the corridors of the Art Student League in a cloud of marble dust from a teaching studio there, when he was working next door in wood.   They went to the Whitney Biennial, then for walks in the park, and ended up living together, though with separate studios now in Long Island City.

As Lilian holds court around one of her sculptures, her partner Brad Whitermore laughs admiringly while basking in the kudos he earned by carrying her very heavy marble works up the steep steps and stairs of the Eley brownstone gallery on a wintry day.

Images on his iPhone Brad showed us confirmed how much they had in common, since two were of torsos in exceptionally fine classical style.  “I like torsos, yes” he said. “The classical department of the Met is one of my favorite spots, a point of departure for lines I am interested in.”

Whitermore was able in the 21st Century manner to show us his own fine account of the female form inspired by the Greek models he has often visited at the Metropolitan Museum

Also present were:

Carole Eisner, the artist (and mother of the gallery owner) whose giant sculptures are seen outdoors in Connecticut, Massachusetts and New York, including a monumental one below the tramway to Roosevelt Island at  59St and 2nd Avenue last year.

Carol Eisner Bridge • 2014 Painted, Welded Steel | 48″ h x 83″ w x 45″ d

Allison Chernow, director of external affairs at the Bronx Museum, with her daughter Dorothea Trufelman, still a Skidmore student, who is planning to visit Cuba in May to photograph life there for an NYU Tisch program project.

Allison Chernow of the Bronx Museum of Art talks to Susan Eley, framing her daughter Dorothea Trufelman of Skidmore who plans a May trip to Cuba to photograph the island’s longtime evasion of modern commerce before its purity gets washed away by an influx of exploiters

Naomi Campbell the artist, instructor in the contemporary figure in watercolor at the Art Student’s League, whose solo exhibition was last summer

Christopher Priore, a very active artist in a splendid sweater which suggests exactly that, as well as the ski slopes.

Christopher Priore who paints on thick vinyl, he says, and has a video up on YouTube titled Rapunzel’s Village.

Next up at Susan Eley:

The celebrated author of A Manual of Practical Sexual Advice holds up her latest book of poems, from which she will read Thu Jan 22

The celebrated author of A Manual of Practical Sexual Advice holds up her latest book of poems, from which she will read Thu Jan 22

Poetry, Wine, Art, and Conversation:Vica Miller Poetry Salon: Saeed Jones, reading from ; Susana H. Case, reading from 4 Rms w Vu, new book of poems (Mayapple Press, 2014); Jayson Smith, reading new poetry; Adam Falkner, reading new poetry. Thursday, January 22, 2015, from 6:30 to 8:30 PM (reading 7 PM sharp). Free. RSVP essential by Jan 15. @vica_miller
Click for bios of the poets and the series

Digital Collection Talk by Michael Spalter, Chairman of the Board of the Rhode Island School of Design, on his large collection of early digital art amassed with his wife, artist, author, educator Anne Morgan Spalter. Thursday Jan 29 6.30pm Talk 7pm prompt, then Q & A, refreshments. Seating limited RSVP susie@susameleyfineart.com 917=952-7641 )

More pictures at Photocalendar, currently 94 before adding and weeding.
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