Currently on display at Traver Gallery are new works by Mark Bennion and a group of sculptural works by Amie McNeel entitled Float. Vashon-based artist Mark Bennion creates fresco, sculpture and collage, and the various pieces converse with one another in the gallery, nicely representing the cohesion of Bennion’s artistic voice through various media. His Sky Forms dominates the center of the room. Bowed, triangular forms rise from the floor, create a rhythm in their repetition, and references the angular bracket forms seen in one of Bennion’s fresco pieces.
Bennion’s frescoes are intriguing, as they do not adhere to the more figurative aspects of the tradition but still have a meditative quality. The pigmented plaster is intuited as more solid and durable than canvases and fragile sculptures, giving it a sense of permanence, but the material is shot through with cracks and color variations, revealing its mutable materiality on closer examination. Bennion’s collages exhibited at Traver Gallery are an exploration of shape and the ability of layering to be meaningful, emotive, instructive, to give viewers a sense of exploration. There is an alluring simplicity to some of the collages, such as #9. In this work, Bennion frames a black space with a natural mat—but even the matting has visual intrigue and acts as part of the collage, denying the conventions of image presentation. Within the black space, Bennion places a grey, or translucent black, triangle. The correlation of the geometry, is structured yet flows effortlessly. Notably, Mark Bennion includes four works that are so subtle you may not even notice them.
The attenuated spike in the corner of Bennion’s gallery space corresponds to the two graphite studies presented on the wall. The simplicity of Bennion’s geometry is almost reminiscent of minimalism. As the eye travels up the pointed triangle, and then up the beam of the gallery space, the viewer notices yet another sculpture which juts out horizontally into nothingness. These works speak to Bennion’s attention to detail the ability of artworks to work and relate to one another.
Amie McNeel’s sculptures at Traver Gallery are luminescent and seem to imitate the atmospheric effects we see locally. McNeel, a professor of sculpture at the University of Washington, also explores nautical themes, as the name Float suggests. This theme may feel exhausted to some, but McNeel’s work is fresh and innovative, working from shape, color, and materials that are more referential than strictly representational. For example, positioned on one wall in the gallery space are three “buoys.” The colored, frosted glass at the base that fades as it progresses upwards is visually appealing and soothing.
These buoys, along with many of McNeel’s works, have an industrial, yet delicate, quality. Her buoys resemble so many aspects of modern life (even light fixtures) yet are quite inventive. McNeel puts a spin on her buoy shapes in the work entitled Float. It descends on the space with steel rings encircling the buoy shape and casting annular shadows across the floor. This piece is reminiscent of a Renaissance armillary sphere, technical and beautifully harmonized. In Golden Buoy, McNeel continues varies the theme by resting the figure on its side. The addition of the metal chain seems to transform the object into a useable form. The color, an illusive black-grey-purple, is intensified by the rich translucence of the glass contrasted with luminously polished steel. McNeel’s attention to light allows the materials to fully be explored and intensifies the effects of her themes.
Float and the new works by Mark Bennion will be on display until March 31.