bk projects | beth kantrowitz

past project

Isabel Riley + Amy Ruppel

Sculpture and Paintings

Exhibition Dates: November 4 - December 3 , 2011
Reception: Friday, November 4, 6 - 8 pm

Drive-By, 81 Spring Street, Watertown, MA
Hours: Thursdays 12 - 4 pm

At first glance, Isabel Riley's sculpture and Amy Ruppel's paintings don't seem to have much in common. So why pair the two artists in an exhibition?

In a bold move away from her intricately cut doilies, crocheted environments, and wood and fabric sculpture, Boston artist Isabel Riley embraces a tougher, "noir" aesthetic. Living Proof, one of two pieces installed in Drive-By's storefront windows, employs sparer, more articulated line and forms. Riley continues her use of wood as a structural element with an L-shaped wooden armature, while the fabric of her previous work is replaced by a strip of clear, industrial plastic draped over skeletal, horizontal ribs that project from the vertical spar.

Isabel Riley's wall piece Ruby's Wish layers swatches of foil, rubber, and fabric to form an angular, monochromatic collage. Here Riley plays with surface and reflection in new ways, and there is a heightened emphasis on the rhythm of dark and light elements. Perhaps this is a result of her new role as bass player in the Boston band, Lucky Dragon.

Amy Ruppel is a naturalist and animal lover from Oregon. She grew up in rural Wisconsin near the Mammoth Ice Age Center where she drew plants and comics, and dug up fossils. The five small paintings in this exhibition (all titled after Duran Duran songs) depict semi-abstract scenes composed from Ruppel's lexicon of quirky images. Planet Earth depicts forests of small, bare conifers growing out of floating, multihued orbs. Like Riley, Ruppel places an emphasis on the tactile qualities of her materials. Bare strips of wood left unpainted in each piece create a sense of forest within the gallery, while also echoing the vertical wood spine of Riley's window piece.

Whereas one might describe Riley's work as physical and extroverted, Ruppel's intimate paintings pull the viewer in to a more cerebral space. Her cut and painted Thumbelina-sized scenes occupy a foggy, amorphous realm. In Hold Back the Rain, Ruppel's most abstract painting, the familiar multihued orbs are suspended in a waxy haze, like newly discovered planets inviting us in for a closer look.

While Riley's work is direct with an industrial edge, Ruppel's is soft and mysterious like a rainforest. Riley's color is urban, monochromatic, and Ruppel's leans toward pastel. The two bodies of work seem to have irreconcilable differences yet, much like "Let's Call the Whole Thing Off", George Gershwin's classic homage to the attraction of opposites . . .

You like potato and I like potahto,
You like tomato and I like tomahto;
Potato, potahto, tomato, tomahto . . . etc.,

Riley and Ruppel appear copasetic in Drive-By's small storefront gallery space.

Isabel Riley, Ruby's Wish, 12 x 56 x 26", (approximate size), Mixed media

Amy Ruppel, Hold Back the Rain, paper, oil, wax on panel, 14 x 11"

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