‘Color just complicates things’: ‘Art in Black and White’ exhibit captures shades of abstraction

For the CDTOctober 25, 2013 

  • if you go

    What: “Art in Black and White”

    When: through Dec. 3

    Where: Foxdale Village Retirement Community, 500 E. Marylyn Ave., State College

    Info: www.artalliancepa.org, 238-3322

Polar opposites have never been more stunningly attractive than in what is on display at Foxdale Village. “Art in Black and White,” the Art Alliance of Central Pennsylvania’s latest exhibit, is a stark and beautiful look at a dazzling collection of photographs, abstract drawings and sculptures presented in brilliant black and white.

“Black and white is very definitive, and it’s sophisticated,” said Pasquale Cortese, one of the featured artists and a co-chairperson. “Even though the show lacks color, it’s very beautiful and dynamic. It’s truly an experience when you see black and white done right because not only are there drawings and paintings, but there are photographs there as well. There’s an abstract version and there’s a definitive realism to all of these pieces.”

Despite being defined as the absence of color and every color combined simultaneously, black and white art transcends the rainbow spectrum and provides a haunting strictness that isn’t easy to capture. The misleading simplicity of these pieces is beyond compelling and forces the artist to substitute space and shading for gaudy and blinding colors.

“It’s not an easy thing to make a black and white piece of art work; it can be very difficult,” said Pasquale, whose art was exhibited in New York City in 2011. “I’ve experimented a very little bit in color, and with what I do, it just doesn’t work for me. Color just complicates things, and I think it’s more dynamic in black and white, more vibrant.”

“You can’t just take a photograph and say, ‘Oh, I’m going to make this black and white,’ ” said Anne Cortese, photographer, the exhibit’s curator and Pasquale’s wife. “You’re looking for all of the different grays and you have to determine how special the lighting is and I just think that black and white is very compelling. I think that the show leads to abstraction, reduction and contemplation.”

Much like older films, especially film noir from the 1940s and ’50s, there’s something classic and ageless about black and white. The pieces on display at this exhibit needn’t any frills or trimming; they are able to silently speak for themselves and transcend their garish surroundings.

“There are greater patterns and more rhythm and vibrations,” Anne said. “It’s starker, and everything is all so very timeless.”

“I think there’s a sharpness to it and a simplicity because you’re not pulled by different colors in the work,” said Marie Doll, the Art Alliance’s executive director. “But there’s a complexity too because each line and each shadow must really mean something in order to make the piece work together. ”

The exhibit, which runs through Dec. 3, features the work of more than a dozen local artists. The sheer quality and quantity is a rarity for the Centre Region.

“This exhibit gives you the opportunity to see a little bit more of each person and their vision in just one space,” Anne said. “It’s a dialogue of 15 artists together, which in that sense, is more unusual than most of the shows that I’ve seen. These are some of our strongest artists, and you are able to see a bit more of their work and a bit more of their vision.”

“At this show, everything plays off of each other very well,” Doll added. “It’s so interesting to see how just working in black and white, there can be so much variety.”

This exhibit revels in its minimalism without being overbearing or pretentious. These are inspiring artists challenging themselves to work both between firmly established lines and outside of their comfort zones.

“The show isn’t too serious, but it’s very thoughtful,” Anne said. “It’s a different kind of experience than what we normally have at the other shows.”

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