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Short North art exhibition aims to subvert the meaning of material

"Turf Triangles" by Luke Ahern, whose work in on display at ROY BIV Gallery from Oct. 4-25. Credit: Courtesy of Ken Aschliman

“Turf Triangles” by Luke Ahern, whose work in on display at ROY BIV Gallery from Oct. 4-25.
Credit: Courtesy of Ken Aschliman

Materialism is an oft criticized ideal in the art world, where many artists work to convey an abstract aesthetic. But for two artists whose work is on display at ROY G BIV Gallery, the material has become their muse.

Crystal Gregory, an artist based in Brooklyn, N.Y., is one of those artists and takes inspiration from inverting the meanings and stereotypes of today’s society. With material as a key focus, her work delves into the meanings and roles pressed into material by culture.

“Material is very important to me. I use material as vocabulary to explore social norms. My interests have been in the commonness and everyday-ness of the materials I use,” Gregory said.

Gregory spent five months in Amsterdam studying traditional lacework patterns, which influenced her choice of tools. Gregory said she is drawn to lace because of the emptiness in the textile and the way the eye passes through it, which allows it to either empower whatever is on the other side of the filter or expose it. This installation will feature works that contain lace as a focal textile.

Her title piece, named “How Many of Those Who Are Yoked Together Have Ever Seen Oxen,” features lace netting suspending concrete tubes.

“Lace and concrete contradict each other but I feel that they both can be very structural and architectural materials. Concrete is like a building material and lace is more decorative, interior and nonnecessity,” Gregory said.

The contrast in the role of both the lace and concrete reflects Gregory’s inversion of social norms.

“The lace is essentially supporting the weight of the cement and inverting this idea of necessity,” Gregory said.

The title of the main piece is a passage from Gregory’s favorite novel, “Ida” by Gertrude Stein. In the novel, Ida has marriages that are short-lived, and yet they make her weary. Gregory’s title is a line Ida says in lament of this fact, and Gregory uses it in relation to the constant shifting of the idea of tradition in reality as well as the fluidness in connotation of the word “tradition.”

On the other hand, Luke Ahern, the other artist featured in the exhibit, who is also a lecturer at Ohio State, likes to incorporate materials from his surroundings as a way to show the effects of everyday life on his artwork. He uses limitations, such as his access to material or his creative process, to manipulate pieces to reach outside of these boundaries. 

“Often times, I’ll use introduction of new material to shake up my practice and learn something new,” Ahern said. “It’s an act of discovery — I’ll see a new material and wonder how it’ll work in my studio.”

For one piece, he explores new material that changes the focal point of his art. “There is one painting that is a totally new process I’ve never done before,” Ahern said. “It’s kind of drastically changing things for me. I think my work after this show will focus more on this form. I’m including it in this show to see how it interacts with other pieces.”

Ahern said his work process often involves him trying to “stumble upon” new ideas. As he gathers materials for his art work, he fumbles through ideas to discover new ways to work with new media. As an artist, Ahern is constantly searching and researching techniques.

"How Many of Those Who Are Yoked Together Have Ever Seen Oxen" by Crystal Gregory, whose work is on display at ROY G BIV Gallery from Oct. 4-25. Credit: Courtesy of Ken Aschliman

“How Many of Those Who Are Yoked Together Have Ever Seen Oxen” by Crystal Gregory, whose work is on display at ROY G BIV Gallery from Oct. 4-25.
Credit: Courtesy of Ken Aschliman

The cohesiveness in Ahern’s work lies in the interaction between the viewer and their perception of sight.

“I think the (audience) will initially react to the visceral color. It’s color through material as opposed to color being shown as an illusion. You interact with color more as a tactile object than characteristic,” Ahern said.

Ahern hopes his work comes off playful in the sense of active discovery, but still with some degree of seriousness.

ROY G BIV Gallery, founded in 1989 and located in the Short North, is a nonprofit art gallery that aims to showcase works of emerging artists. 

“It’s actually in the full name: ROY G BIV Gallery for Emerging Artists — we try to be a launching pad for them,” said gallery director Ken Aschliman. “The other mission we have is: we are built on an educational mission and we really enjoy exposing the Columbus public to these new emerging artists.”

Aschliman said he looks for connections between artists to decide which to pair for showings to bring a sense of cohesiveness between the pieces.

“I paired Luke with Crystal because I thought that there is a relationship between their works. They’re not looking at the same materials but there are formal relationships — both Crystal and Luke use geometric patterns in different ways using very different materials,” he said.

Aschliman said he looks for differences between the artists as much as he looks for relationships.

“The way Luke and Crystal use material is very different. Crystal uses cement, string, and lace to create these sculptures, and Luke will grab any and every material for his installation. So I think their approach is similar and also different. I think it’ll be a good combination,” he said.

ROY G BIV Gallery is located at 997 N. High St. The exhibit is free and is set to open at a reception on Saturday 7-10 p.m. The works will be on display until Oct. 25, when there will also be an artists’ talk at 2:30 p.m.

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