Brandt Gallery – Tom Orange’s Spring Review

In addition to a great summer lineup with established and emerging Cleveland artists showing work in a variety of media, the past few months have seen Brandt Gallery play host to a variety of art openings, literary and musical events.
In February that gallery featured A Guide to Science by Jeff Curtis and Craig Martin. Childhood friends from Toledo, Jeff and Craig were also fellow visual arts students and active musicians at Kent State in the 1980s. While both have remained active visual artists since then, neither had exhibited their work in over ten years. A Guide to Science found Curtis and Martin incorporating iconic images of technology and innovation derived in part from popular science encyclopedias and comic strips, weaving these drawn and painted images into distinct yet complimentary styles that provoked humor, mystery and wonder. Opening and closing receptions also featured musical performances by Iron Oxide (Curtis’ long-time duo with Kat Stewart) as well as Martin’s own acoustic guitar songcraft.

Daiv Whaley’s “Instant Impressionism: Automatic Paintings the Polaroid Way” brought an unexpected and welcome spot of color to a cold early Spring Brandt Gallery opening in March. Taking polaroid closeups of flowers, Whaley manipulates the film as it develops as well as in the process of transferring the prints to acetate sheets. The results combined sharp and vibrant colors with with blurred edges of deep focus to create a neo-retro twist on a classic painterly style.

Rounding out the Spring calendar was Buddies by Justin Brennan. Ostensible portraits of pairs (and occasionally trios) of friends, Brennan’s canvases invariably evoked comments on contemporary social relations as well: “I use flat saturated color in most of my work,” Brennan stated, “because this is how I see our world and society; plainly, dismally, and vividly.” The cartoon-like portraits are often quite humorous as well, the blank looks and cheshire grins of these ”buddies” staring at us as a reminder of the tragic-comic sense of life. Brennan’s closing reception on a glorious pre-summer May evening featured a sidewalk performance by Team of Rivals, a garage punk rock quartet with over 20 years of street cred in the Cleveland/Akron/Kent music scenes (including The Heathers, Dead Federation, Missile Toe, Zero Defex, CD Truth, Numbskull, Starvation Army, Oral Authority, Pestilence and the SLAP Jazz Trio). Gina Muscatello (vocals), Jeff Hardy (guitar), Mike Zubal (bass) and John Henry Scully (drums) rocked
the street, with more than one unsuspecting Artwalk patron drawn by sounds and the crowd that filled neighboring sidewalks, driveways andcurb lawns.

Always presenting opportunities for a variety of the lively arts,
Brandt Gallery continues to host poetry and music on regular and irregular bases. Russell Vidrick’s monthly Open Mic Poetry series has been held the second Saturday of every month at Brandt for over six years now and has a wide reputation for being truly open: no formal introductions, no sign-up sheets. Just bring some poems, your own or others’, and jump in whenever there’s a break in the proceedings.

There are usually taste treats as well: Charlotte Mann often brings wine and chocolate, and Kathy Smith has been bringing some killer baked goods as of late. Another poetry group meets at the Gallery on fourth Saturdays, formerly called Rufus and now christened Nufus (or sometimes Rufus/Nufus). Kimberly Diamond spearheads this project, founded by her with Wendy Shaffer and Blayne Hoerner  a workshop where poets bring copies of draft poems and actively seek comments and suggestions from their peers.  The two poetry events compliment each other wonderfully, as a poem workshopped at Rufus/Nufus often get a new airing at Vidrick’s Open Mic the next month.

On the music front, longtime Tremont resident Criag Chojnicki brought an unexpected treat to the Brandt Gallery on Friday May 4. Keir Neuringer, an Ithaca, NY based songwriter and instrumentalist, came to town for his third visit. Audiences were blown away by his previous shows at Bela Dubby, which combined virtuoso extended technique tenor saxophone playing with impassioned poetic recitations railing against the injustices of capitalist oppression overtop hypnotic tribal drum beats. This time, Keir also added dark and sometimes ironic pop tunes rendered on keyboards, drums and vocals in a one-man band effect.
Chojnicki himself opened the proceedings with the recitation of a political poem with menacing electronics underneath. The duo of David Imburgia and Tom Orange also performed, starting with droning keyboards from the storefront window before moving to guitar (Imburgia) and drums (Orange) and finishing the set with some free jazz/rock improv.

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