Honoring the Land: Baker, O’Sickey, and Tyrrell at Bostwick Design Partnership
Three artists extend the landscape to others by freezing a moment: calculated, exuberant, and ineluctable, no matter if that landscape rides a riot of Fauve-inspired color, or stretches the delineation of deep graphite across white paper.
This trio—Lawrence Baker, Joseph O’Sickey, and Brinsley Tyrrell—share a connection to Kent State University, and a fascination with the landscape. Baker studied with O’Sickey and called him his most influential teacher; both O’Sickey and Tyrrell were on the faculty of Kent State with a period of overlap during their tenures. O’Sickey’s works in this exhibit are part of the permanent collection of the Artists Archives of the Western Reserve (AAWR), while both Baker and Tyrrell loaned their works on view.
Baker is at play in the fields of negative space: his elusive, evocative, and massive charcoal drawings capture shimmering moments of the forest. Tree roots flow like water and lie like bones in Birth of a Myth; tree branches arch backward like dancer’s bodies through Method To Concept II; and in most works, masses and grasses freeze into linear stripes, replicating the forest floor arrested mid-motion. Baker’s tight focus and perfection of detail echo anatomical illustrations and the measured, delineated representation found in Walter Crane’s woodcuts.
Here hangs balance, as stated in Baker’s artist statement: “My universe becomes only the white of the paper and the black of the graphite. My mind becomes like calm water and the emotional baggage that I carry every waking moment of life is set aside. . . . I only take what nature provides, by making images from what I see, and creating a vision that will exceed the sum of its parts.”
Now turn from the complex austerity of Baker and dive into O’Sickey’s ecstasy of color. Translucent colors build, layer by layer, the rich tones of unnatural nature: the deep violet shade and near-turquoise foliage of “October Fragment,” a warm peach and orange hillside of “Blue Hill in October Sun and Mist,” an abundant riot of brick red offset with sky blue fractured across “October Dogwood with Trellis.” O’Sickey dances with color, reminiscent of Henri Matisse’s paintings and those fluid illustrations from the 1950s, where a bright color wash was anchored by swoops of black ink.
Another delight of the exhibit is the inclusion of O’Sickey’s notebooks, four of which are digitized on an iPad that hangs on the wall. Sampling an artist’s process is seductive: pages of attenuated giraffes and horses; a zoo panther resting crossly; and, over and over, vibrant color washed across pages. All parse how O’Sickey thinks, what he is drawn to, and an artist’s first glimpse of something seen. Want more? A QR code directs folx to O’Sickey’s works held in the permanent collection of AAWR.
And finally, the enamels on steel of Brinsley Tyrrell—substantial, rich, and exalted with deep colors—render the landscape in geometries at once wild and controlled. Here, his forest looks on fire with autumn, branches writhing and frozen mid-wave in Streaming Wood #1 while fields exhale and a chorus of grasses lead to the happenstance of blue infinity at the end of the road in Through A Landscape #66.
These enamels were based on Tyrrell’s large pastel drawings of the land around his family’s farmhouse. Tyrrell then reconstructed those images in glass fused to steel using an industrial enameling kiln given to Kent State by the Ferro Corporation. Enamel is a fussy medium that requires multiple firings to produce the shimmering colors and textures inherent in melted glass. The five works in the show are about three feet by four feet, an extraordinarily large dimension for fine art enameling.
Visit these pellucid landscapes—all without inhabitants—and gather solitude without loneliness.
A free screening: PBS Western Reserve Documentary, Joseph O’Sickey: The Art of Life is scheduled noon to 1:30 pm Friday, November 17
Yoga classes are offered in the gallery at 6 pm November 16, 22, and 20. $20 cash. Bring your own yoga mat / equipment.
Honoring the Land: Lawrence Baker, Joseph O’Sickey, Brynsley Tyrrell
Presented by Artists Archives of the Western Reserve
Bostwick Design Partnership
2729 Prospect Avenue East
Cleveland OH 44115
Noon to 6 pm Wednesdays
10 am – 2 pm Fridays (Closed November 24 for Thanksgiving)
Noon – 4 pm Saturdays Closed November 25 for Thanksgiving)
and by appointment: 216.721.9020
Free parking in the lot east of the building.