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'Opposite Visions' attract at Square Pear Gallery

06/08/2018 08:39AM ● Published by J. Chambless

'Evolution' by Stan Smokler.

Gallery: 'Opposite Visions' in Kennett Square [7 Images] Click any image to expand.

By John Chambless
Staff Writer

At the Square Pear Gallery in Kennett Square this month, the combination of works by Stan Smokler, Helen Mason and Alexi Natchev gives the gallery a sleek, contemporary look, with a black-and-white theme predominating.

Helen Mason's sculptures and wall pieces are her own striking visions, using shredded and knotted rubber that's tied and tucked into itself in unending variations. The black-on-black palette is actually more subtle than you might expect, with the striations or smoothness of each gnarled scrap working with, or against, the adjoining texture.

They are titled but open-ended, with the viewer playing a large part in interpreting each piece. There's a bit of feathery texture in “Raven,” for instance, but any other bird references are hidden. Mason branches out in six small collages that use other materials, expanding her color and texture palette in refreshing ways.

Serving as a perfect complement is Stan Smokler, whose welded metal sculptures have a similar gray-black palette but suggest a wide range of interpretations. He has several in a “Jack in the Box” series that looks at ways of opening up or embellishing square spaces in unexpected ways.

Smokler's surfaces – dribbled with squiggly lines of molten metal – give his works a distinctive texture, like pitted skin of some sort of metallic growth. There are reference points for the viewer – “Nautilus” has the spiral shape you expect, but with a sinister, spiky outgrowth that comes straight at you. “Cyborg” combines machine parts and mottled metal that resembles flesh. “Frame” plays with the notion of framing something, with a wheel and radiating spikes that refuse to be framed.

Smokler's works have a playful sense, but also open up the imagination to the possibilities of the medium.

The surprise of the show is Alexi Natchev, whose dazzlingly complicated printimaking is on full display. Using a wide range of techniques, he surprises the viewer at every turn.

His embossings on white paper are like fossils emerging from sandstone, but they subtly reveal mysterious details – the human skeleton and the large bird in “Ashes From the Fire,” for instance.

Natchev combines the embossing with lithography for several works that incorporate sharp bursts of color. He surprises again with four mixed-media works based on the Tarot, placing collaged elements and the thinnest paper on the surfaces as garments.

His series of four numbered works titled “Summer” are quite sexy if you use your imagination here and there. The intertwined black figures of two people are played against color background blocks, and printed on paper that is criss-crossed with white threads. They're sparing and elegant and beautiful.

Natchev takes another turn with his “Old Rags” series – sketchy nudes on imprints of battered and torn cloth. He pulls out all the stops with another series of prints that defy categorization, with elements of lithography, mezzotint and dry point etching – each one a dreamlike, multi-layered adventure.

"Opposite Visions," featuring sculpture by Stan Smokler and Helen Mason, and paintings by Alexi Natchev, continues through June 30 at the Square Pear Gallery (200 W. State St., Kennett Square). Gallery hours are Wednesday to Saturday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Call 484-883-5429 for more information.

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


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