The Marlin and Regina Miller Gallery KUTZTOWN UNIVERSITY
ARTIST IN RESIDENCE
MICHAEL COVELLO THE TRIANGLES THROUGH THE LEAVES
Residency: January 20–February 5, 2014 Exhibition: February 5–March 8, 2014
ARTIST IN RESIDENCE
Residency: January 20–February 5, 2015 Exhibition: February 5–March 8, 2015
MICHAEL COVELLO THE TRIANGLES THROUGH THE LEAVES
The Marlin and Regina Miller Gallery KUTZTOWN UNIVERSITY
ABOUT THE ARTIST IN RESIDENCE PROGRAM Every year The Marlin and Regina Miller Gallery at Kutztown University of Pennsylvania requests proposals from artists, craftspersons, and designers for the production of an original, temporary, site-specific installation for our exhibition space. The selected artist (or artist team) will be awarded $7,500. The installation will be on view during the beginning of every spring semester. Proposed artwork can be realized in any medium and there are no restrictions on form or content. However, proposals that demonstrate innovation and deep, nuanced understanding of contemporary art, craft, or design are preferred. Proposals must be for a site-specific installation and must differ greatly from a solo exhibition. Preference will be given to proposals that have a strong student involvement component. All proposals will be reviewed for overall artistic merit, impact on the experience of our students, feasibility within the established time-frame and budget, artistâ€™s demonstration of ability to complete such a project , and the relationship of the project to the galleryâ€™s mission.
INSTALLATION IN PROGRESS
CHAOS BEYOND THE CANVAS
An Analysis of Michael Covello’s TheTriangles Through the Leaves BY ERIN SHANNON Fine Arts Major, Art History Minor, 2015 Graduate
Antagonistic, amoebic, a living thing. These are the words the artist Michael Covello uses to describe the chaos of The Triangles Through the Leaves, which was installed in the Miller Gallery this winter. Covello’s installations spring from a set of painted canvases that he creates prior to the exhibition. The canvases, like the whole gallery space, are thick with layers. They are aggressive, a cacophony of zips and zigzags, obliterated seemingly at random by drips of neon green or mires of festering yellow spray paint. Covello dives into his work headfirst, without specific plans laid out beforehand; instead he brings his canvases, miscellaneous building materials, and large pieces of metal. From there, the artist and his assistants respond directly to the gallery and make decisions based on the space itself. What distinguishes Covello’s work from other abstract painting is what happens beyond the canvas. The keystone canvases he starts from become paintings embedded within other paintings. The canvases are installed on the gallery wall, and then the space around it is transformed
into its own painting, created as an echo and a complement to the
brushstrokes, black slapdash grids, and patches of grey and orange.
feature canvas. This process is carried out on all the peripheral walls of
The gallery wall is a spray painted crosshatching of grey, black and
the Miller Gallery. The half pillars embedded in the gallery walls remain
orange on a field of white. The wall on the right side of the gallery
conspicuously blank, apart from a few roller streaks that have bled over
is again made up of three segments; the first being a section of
from the abutting walls and some construction notes written in pencil,
orange, purple and yellow stripes upon a painted wall of sickly
left by the artist for his student assistants. The notes are a particular
green and yellow, covered in pink drips and splatters. The next is an
reward for those observant and dedicated enough to find such details,
unusual diptych; a larger keystone painting, and a satellite canvas, a
as they offer a glimpse into the process of transforming the gallery
third of the keystone’s size. The keystone canvas is characterized by
space. The pillars break up the space and provide an overall rhythm
an angry yellow spot of spray paint, while the smaller canvas is less
to the installation. They also serve a more subtle function: As the only
aggressive, primarily rust brown and grey. The canvases are hung
space in the gallery left largely untouched by the artist, the pillars serve
on cloudy gray with a neurotic tangle of yellow lines scrawling onto
to bend time within the installation, calling forth the gallery’s original
it. Another section of the gallery wall is also a diptych; a keystone
state. Covello himself has stated his interest in the idea of “non-linear
canvas and a slightly smaller satellite. They are a latticework of
time,” a concept he explores in many sections of the installation.
horizontal stripes of yellow and black, and cut out triangles. The
The space is entrancing, bordering on sensory overload. The first major element the viewer encounters when they enter the exhibit is a
gallery wall is covered in downward slanting stripes, fading from light to dark into the ceiling.
wall emblazoned with bands of blue, white and black, intricately created
Behind every section of the exhibition, the viewer catches a glimpse
using squares of tape to mask off a grid-like pattern. The peripheral wall
of grid work or meticulously laid out stripes. It serves as a way to
to the viewer’s left is broken up into three segments, characterized by
ground the installation, and gives the viewer the sense that behind
splatters of purple cascading up and down the canvases, lines of bright
the seeming disorder of the top layers, there is an underlying order,
blue streaking diagonally across the spaces. One section is a forest of
a sense of construction, using methods that recall the old masters.
green and gold, the next is considerably calmer than the others, with soft
In the back of the gallery stands a wall of orange, green, and purple,
turquoise and light brown drips blurring through the area. Another is a
crackling with energy, a sister to the blinding blue wall the viewer
mosaic of shimmering blue triangles pieced together over electric green.
encounters first in the gallery. It is patterned with tape in a similar
The back wall of the gallery is one wall supporting three separate pieces.
fashion. Behind both walls lie narrow corridors, interrupted in the
One is a collage of green horizontal brushstrokes over vertical paint
middle by paintings on plexiglass, overlaid with thick paint and strips
drips. The middle painting is actually a set of four canvases arranged
of fabric. The inner walls of the corridor themselves are aglow with
in a square. The last is a confidently incoherent jumble of yellow
a thin layer of green and yellow paint. The corridors are of a slightly
different tone than the rest of the space, awash in a single aggressive color. Narrow walls bear down on the viewer, and yet compared to the manic levels of energy elsewhere in the gallery, the solid washes become almost contemplative. Like the white pillars, they serve to create a certain rhythm, an undulation between nearly oppressive motion and color, and stark, solid contrasts. Within the center of the gallery, the installation springs into full threedimensionality with more sculptural elements, bookended by the angled corridors. The central sculpture is titled Nicolina, an homage to the artist’s grandmother, who recently passed away. It is a dense tangle of wires, wood, and green cloth, almost reminiscent of a jungle. It is as though nature is trying to retake this space for its own. In many ways this is fitting. The artist has expressed fascination with the way that nature itself is a form of abstraction. It carries order, but no agenda. A person may look upon a jungle and see any number of things, just as the audience does upon viewing this sculpture. At the crux of the sculpture are fragments of a broken canvas. It is a former painting, now broken and lifeless, yet from the canvas springs forth vibrant fountains of steel, gauzey fabric, wire and yarn; an explosion of life from the ashes of the “dead” canvas. Shiny green fabric coats the nearby walls. The sculpture is the heart of the whole installation, and the shattered canvas is the heart of the sculpture. The whole central sculpture, full of life and energy, generates out of the lifeless canvas, serving as a metaphor for a nonlinear cycle of birth, life, death, and rebirth in the natural world. Perhaps one of the most exciting things about Covello’s work is that it completely changes the act of displaying a painting. Typically there is a process of transplanting a canvas from the studio space, where it grows
in a very natural, womb-like environment, surrounded by the tools and ideas which create it, and placed in a spartan, pristine gallery space. Many artists have bemoaned this process. Covello’s work suffers no such loss from studio to gallery. Covello’s The Triangles Through the Leaves is an all-immersive rollercoaster through blinding colors, frenetic patterns, and untamed jungles. It transports the viewer to a place apart from time, a place with order, but no sense. It is a celebration of rebirth from death, making the transient nature of the installation all the more fitting. It will not last forever, though elements may find themselves reborn in the future work of Michael Covello, as well as in the students and audiences whom he has
...AN EXPLOSION OF LIFE FROM THE ASHES OF THE “DEAD” CANVAS
inspired and influenced.
The Triangles Through the Leaves JOHN WHITE, PH.D Chairperson of Art Education and Crafts Department, Kutztown University
Rounding the corner into Kutztown University’s Miller Art Gallery this installation draws you in: an array of color; a wall of pattern amplified and subverted through meticulous geometry; a pile of process driven debris; a gallery of hovering squares and a space interrupted by forms mimicking their painted forbearers. Is this space a baroque formal garden, inviting an ambulatory stroll through plantings and reliefs and sculptures? Is this space a Dada installation, like Duchamp’s 1942 Sixteen Miles of String, an homage to the inhibitory power of art? Perhaps, one, the other, both or something different. That is the fun of the installation work of Michael Covello. Installations traffic in the ambient conditions of place. Those conditions ply their needs upon the artist, who energize place into spaces poised for opportunity. Makers and viewers alike depend upon an awareness of this transformation. This transformation, as a contributing presence carries on from the outset to the completion of the project’s viewing. After which, like a dust storm, the work recedes leaving its residue as memory. Michael Covello traffics in this relationship in his work, The Triangles Through the Leaves, at Kutztown University’s Miller Art Gallery.
The Triangles Through the Leaves presents us from the outset with conflict as a central condition. The designed image of a triangle’s sharp corners seem weightier and more urgent that than the natural edges of leaves. Leaves shift with wind and sun to capture the sun’s energy. They flutter in sequential rhythms and play a part in the swarm of fellow leaves. The triangle’s design is of human thought, identified by a Greek sense of order. One wonders at the prepositional support, “through” used by Covello to define this relationship: Is this a gaze or is this a thrust? As a Gaze, the viewer looks through the leaves to the triangle. As a thrust, the triangle pierces the leaves. This ambiguity grounds the complexity of
THEY FLUTTER IN SEQUENTIAL RHYTHMS AND PLAY A PART IN THE SWARM OF FELLOW LEAVES.
Covello’s installation and frames our interpretive play. Is this about sight or power? Light or materiality? Voyeurism or Action? Or a fluttering
the other, and the detritus to reveal and expand their truths. Each
tweaked by the winds of thought and experience? This we can surmise
painted square panel that he brought to the site radiates outward as
with out ever actually seeing the piece.
the constructed space within the gallery conflates into the panels.
Although the work exceeds the confines of studio practice, Covello comes to this space primarily through the traditions of studio painting. Covello resists, embraces, and depends upon those traditions. This occurs in two ways: through his artistic sensibility and through the
A ramble through these “leaves” and “triangles” reveals constructed forms that, like Baroque follies, present themselves unexpectedly to the audience as the webs, walls, and discarded colorful adolescent woodland forts.
process of constructing the work. His artistic sensibility pulse with
His process of construction began with painted squats and canvas
a resistance: between the physicality of the canvas, the surface and
panels made in Florida. The elements were then moved on-
rectilinear form, and the plastic and sensory qualities of his materials,
site where their influence was extended into the Miller Gallery.
fluid spreadable and spray-able material and overlaying color. Unlike
Once here, Covello worked with Kutztown University students to
his forbearer Mondrian, whose constrained argument led to a de-
construct the installation, a process that benefitted both Covello’s
construction of the givens of frame and surface, Covello works through
and the students’ experiences. These benefits had both artistic and
the amplification of action to subvert and rekindle the inherited forms
pedagogical dimensions to them. The work’s aesthetic is opened
of painting. These subversions include both overlay of processes on the
into the social conditions of labor, improvisation, and design. While
canvas and the extension of the optical painterly forms into sculptural
falling short of collaborations, students complied with Covello’s
space. In this way he joins artistic concerns that work with the abject,
scheme, improvised within explicit and implied boundaries, and
interacted with Covello on segments of the work. The Triangles Through the Leaves evolves then as a pedagogical site, in which learning takes place in a project-based constructivist framework, with students both contributing to and learning from the experience. It is here that the consequence of the gallery site fulfills its influence upon Covelloâ€™s, as a pedagogical place in which the learning took place in dense interactive real time. Views will emerge from this work with a series of questions and experiences. The Work traffics in an aesthetic awash in the influences of collage, the street, entertainment, camouflage, and this digital ageâ€™s overlays of signals and signs. It proceeds by doubling down on the mark as a means to divert attention from the givens, the gallery and the square panelâ€™s reference to easel painting. Viewers will wonder does this resonance reach some point of sustainability or does it demand a constant supply of energy to avoid succumbing to entropy? This question is one of the mysteries of The Triangles Between the Leaves that sustain its memory as a trace within the life of the gallery, the future of the students, the experience of its audience, and the work of Covello.
MICHAEL COVELLO Michael Covello received a Bachelors in Fine Arts from Cornell University and a Masters in Fine Art from the University of South Florida. He has had several solo and group shows throughout Florida and New York, his most current show being an upcoming solo exhibition at the 221 Gallery in Tampa, Florida. He was recently chosen as one of ten artists to participate in The Orlando Museum of Art Florida Prize in Contemporary Art. An annual invitational exhibition that focuses on the production of contemporary art in the State; artists are chosen based on artistic excellence, engagement with significant ideas and achievement that is demonstrated by a history of exhibitions and awards. Among other honors he was the 2014 recipient of the Carolyn Heller Memorial Award and the Individual Artists Grant from the Arts Council of Hillsborough County. He is currently an instructor at the University of South Florida as well as a production associate for the Graphicstudio Institute For Research in Art.
ABOUT KUTZTOWN UNIVERSITY The Marlin and Regina Miller Gallery of Kutztown University presents significant and professionally executed solo and group exhibitions of contemporary art in a variety of mediums as well as supporting programs, events, and services that will directly enhance the artistic and philosophical development of our students and our community. We strive to challenge assumptions and stimulate discussion by presenting artwork and programs relevant to the social and cultural life of the general and special populations within our service area. Located an hour north of Philadelphia, and two hours west of New York City, KU has an enrollment of 10,000+ students. Each year, the College of Visual and Performing Arts awards approximately 225 undergraduate degrees in Communication Design, Fine Arts, Art Education, and Crafts. Our Visual Arts programs are accredited by the National Association of Schools of Art and Design.
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