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Collaboration is the key to new exhibit at Oxford Arts Alliance

09/18/2017 09:56AM ● Published by J. Chambless

'Kool-Aid' by Jeff Schaller.

Gallery: Schaller Friends and Family [10 Images] Click any image to expand.

By John Chambless
Staff Writer

Take six artists who would seem to have little in common, mix well and let them finish each other's paintings, and you have the winning formula for the new exhibit at the Oxford Arts Alliance.

“Schaller Friends and Family” is, first of all, fun. It's centered on well-known artist Jeff Schaller, whose pop-art style paintings jump off the wall with bold portraits, advertising logos and a playful use of text. There are large works done solely by him – “Yes Motel” and “Kool-Aid” are perhaps the most immediate favorites – but when he teams up with Brandywine realist painter Heather Davis for “Fabulous Bridge,” for instance, they create something else entirely. The vivid painting of a red covered bridge is overlaid by Schaller's red cardinal and day-glo text reading “Absolutely Fabulous.”

Schaller and Teresa Haag are a powerful team, with Haag's rather somber cityscapes made of newsprint and layers of paint accented by Schaller's witty additions. In “Proceed,” his tin toy airplane flies over Haag's jumble of city rowhomes, a silly counterpoint to the rich composition of walls and roofs below. The duo's “Love More” is a more resonant work, with Schaller's woman in a long, black coat painted over Haag's misty cityscape.

Schaller works with his daughter, Mia, in several small paintings that have the family's trademark style. “Dreams” pairs a woman's sidelong glance with a pink doughnut. “Banana” mashes up the iconic Warhol banana from the Velvet Underground LP with an orangutan, hanging by one arm in the foreground. Mia's solo paintings – particularly her acrylic portrait of a deer, slyly titled “John” – show bright promise.

The works by ceramicist Rhoda Kahler are highlighted by her wonderful diptych, “Fingerprints” – two large panels lined with clay squares, each impressed with a fingerprint. It's a strong message of individuality and cohesiveness, with each square uniquely fired. One of her collaborations with Schaller, “Dream,” blends Kahler's stoneware city and Schaller's reference to the dream of home ownership.

Kahler's stoneware spheres, displayed on pedestals, are satisfying works in themselves, but when Schaller takes a hand – in “Diving Bell” and “Superheroes” – they become even more resonant and entertaining.

Then there are the eye-popping, graffiti-like acrylic paintings by Paul Downie. His solo work, “Barn Jam,” is a very fun animal jam session. His collaborations with Schaller – “Soul Jazz” and “Sweet Songs” – are a great blend of cartoonish whimsy and '60s pop culture.

By allowing each artist to show individually, and then in tandem with Schaller, the exhibit reveals how artists play off of one another to create artworks with their own distinctive spirit. This must have been great fun for the artists to put together, and it's a richly rewarding experience for the visitor as well.

“Schaller Friends and Family” continues through Oct. 13 at the Oxford Arts Alliance (38 S. Third St., Oxford). The artists will discuss their works in the gallery on Sept. 27 from 7 to 9 p.m. Gallery hours are Tuesday to Thursday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., with extended hours on the first and third Friday of the month until 8 p.m. Visit www.oxfordart.org for more information.

To contact Staff Writer John Chambless, email jchambless@chestercounty.com.

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