Two artists explore their personal obsessions in simultaneous shows at Sandler Hudson Gallery. In the front gallery, Bay Area abstract painter John Belingheri offers endless compositional changes on elliptical forms, while Atlanta-based artist Pam Longobardi celebrates the publication of her book Drifters with installations in the project space and on the rooftop.
Belingheri is process-focused: His mixed-media works on paper or canvas are all variations on the same theme. They share a common background — a neutral, textured shade of tan. Only the colors change from work to work. "Façades/Cerulean" has a multitude of orbs in different blues, built up slightly off the painting's surface. The artist has added layers of color upon color as if he were trying on sweaters to see which goes best with the rest of the outfit.
If it sounds formulaic that's because it is. Belingheri writes in his artist statement, "I paint like a tradesman, a baker, a knitter; making adjustments to the colors and surface and how it makes me feel; still being influenced by the thoughts of patterns and relationships. ... And when it is finished I wonder what does it all mean? Meaning is an afterthought." Endless variation on a theme is the point, but as a collection it's too redundant. There's a blue one, a red one, a green one ... all in different sizes. This is painting as high-craft rather than art. It is like knitting, albeit highly skilled knitting.
Longobardi's work is based in an equally obsessive process, but meaning is no afterthought for her. She's motivated by concern about the ecology of our oceans and the nonbiodegradable plastic litter that washes up on their shores. Longobardi sees herself as an archivist, gathering and cataloguing debris from the many oceans where she swims, and using it as the material for her art. Her work resonates particularly powerfully as the ecological disaster in the Gulf of Mexico rages on.
"Sappho's Mirror III" traces the ornate frame of a large hand mirror with a multitude of found plastic items: combs, sticks, toys, alphabet letters. All of the objects are black, but their many hues and tones remind us of how many different kinds of black there actually are. The mirror is as tall as a human, and creates a sense of accountability in the audience as part of a society whose trash pollutes the oceans, and often profits from doing so. Longobardi's work with found plastic debris brings to mind British sculptor Tony Cragg, who also constructs familiar images by assembling small found objects on the wall. Longobardi's conveys a sense of mission: She has become a warrior of the seas and a voice of ecological consciousness in the art world.