The Cleveland School, and Preston Buchtel at Kenneth Paul Lesko Gallery
Cleveland School 2015
March 20 – May 9, 2015
When it comes to innovative artists creating powerful, well-crafted works of art, Cleveland has a rich depth of history. Cleveland School artists were known for keeping pace with their national and international peers, often outshining them in the quality of their work.
In the early 1900s, Cleveland artists experienced the strong influence of European Modernism. Henry Keller’s painting, Wisdom and Destiny, was included in the Armory Show in New York City, also known as the 1913 International Exhibition of Modern Art. The Armory Show was the first large-scale exhibition of modern art in America. The exhibition included examples of Romanticism, Realism, Impressionism, Symbolism and Post-Impressionism, but also showcased the 20th Century European styles of Fauvism, Cubism and Futurism.
These seeds of Modernism took root in Cleveland, evidenced not only by Henry Keller’s work from that period, but by numerous others, including August Biehle, William Zorach, and William Sommer. Reverberations of this Modernist influence emerge even in the work of American Scene painters like Charles Burchfield and Frank Wilcox. Generations of student/teacher relationships, as well as informal interaction and exhibition, have helped to produce a legacy of experimentation and dedication to craftsmanship that persists today.
May 15 – July 11, 2015
Preston Buchtel’s digital collages evoke a dynamic, surrealist aesthetic filled with bleak humor and introspective commentary.
In Buchtel’s piece, Evolution, we are treated to three unified levels of subjective perception, identity and truth. A passive audience watches a film in a darkened movie theater. The film is a projection within a projection, showing a soldier with a rifle pointed at a chimpanzee projected onto a screen. The chimpanzee holds a gun of its own, pointed at the soldier. Each of these three layers of perception should exist within their own realities—the chimpanzee aware only of its own existence; the soldier aware of his own existence and the projection of the chimpanzee; and the audience aware of both the soldier and the chimpanzee.
The chimpanzee destroys the verisimilitude of this arrangement by pointing its gun at the soldier, appearing not only to be aware of the soldier, but engaging him in a threatening tete-a-tete, breaking its own fourth wall and forming a surrealist meta-narrative.
We, as the ultimate viewers of the piece, become a fourth layer of perception. Aware of the chimpanzee, the soldier and the theater audience, we are forced to ponder our counterparts. Are the chimpanzee and the soldier so far removed from each other in their evolutionary arcs? Is the audience, entertained by passively watching this prelude to violence, an evolutionary superior? Are we, as the analytical observer, the final step in this evolution, or are we simply another aspect of the chimpanzee, the soldier and the audience?
Kenneth Paul Lesko Gallery
1305 West 80th Street
Cleveland, Ohio 44102
Cleveland School 2015: March 20 – May 9, 2015
Preston Buchtel Solo Exhibition: May 15 – July 11, 2015
William Grauer, Cubist Figures, ca. 1930s. Watercolor on Paper, 20 x 25 inches
Preston Buchtel, Evolution, 2013. 1/10. Archival Pigment Print, 15 x 25 inches