[imave-1]Viewed independently, the works of both Ashley Andrykovitch and Crystala Armagost captivate with depth and delicacy. Joined together, as seen in the exhibition Deaf and Death, at ModernFormations Gallery, each artist brings out the other's best, illuminating through surprising intersections and complementing in their contrasts.
Andrykovitch's painted terrain is a hazy landscape of stark white birches and leafless forests, saturated light and meandering shade, populated by a spindly skeleton and suitcase turntables. Her protagonist peeps out through binoculars, tumbles in air, blabs on tin-can telephones and generally seems to have the time of his life (death?) traipsing through a kingdom in which he's solitary ruler.
He's precisely drawn and finely detailed, popping out against foggy washes of color; although nothing but bone, he's filled with life, infused with charm and rich in personality. Andrykovitch has made him amazingly likable and easy to connect with: By the time you reach the single work in which his happy-go-lucky façade cracks and he sits dejectedly beneath a tree, cranium propped upon patella, you're a smidge saddened by his despondence and hope for things to get better.
Turntables pop in and out of the artist's vivid narrative like scampering woodland beasties, perched lone and alertly waiting or gathering in huddled clusters, cords and plugs trailing tail-like behind them. The other characters enlivening her fields make a single cameo in "Granny What You Done." The work depicts a woman in a rocking chair with the product of her knitting needles sitting benignly enough in her lap, even as it spreads malignant across the ground, parasitic, rapidly expanding, and possessing life of its own.
Andrykovitch crafts life and nature: Machines turn animalistic out of her brush, and the remnants of a person are more creature than corpse. In contrast, Armagost uses mixed media primarily to investigate equipment and apparatus, all once the peak of innovation, now antiquated and corpselike themselves.
Hi-fis, Walkmen and C60s fray and perish. Within this series, there are a few brief ventures into the organic. In "Beat," a heart rotates on the turntable; tape leaking from a cassette transforms to intestines in "No Guts, No Glory." Tape cases sit like ghost towns, records melt wax and blood, and lightning crackles while the needle at the end of the arm brings nothing to life.
In a written statement, the artist describes this work as (among other things) a meditation on the loss of hearing, and the silence captured within these pieces booms and thunders. What she's captured with clarity is not just that all of these devices and contraptions are lifeless and quiet, but that they once shouted and sang. Abandoned shells that formerly gushed with sound, and quivered with the movement which that engenders, now sit glaringly inert.
Both of these Pittsburgh-based women execute their ideas with clean precision, keen lines crossing canvas, burlap and wood, drawing and painting developed characters who relate well-told stories. Extra credit is due for the assembly and hanging of the show in the two-room storefront gallery; the positioning of each piece ensures the greatest communication throughout the collection and allows the viewer to flow effortlessly from one work to the next. Two separate visions merge here into a startling and inviting third.
Deaf and Death continues through Fri., Sept. 24. ModernFormations Gallery, 4919 Penn Ave., Garfield. 412-362-0274 or www.modernformations.com
- Longtime listener: Ashley Andrykovitch's "I Really Respect That"