Modern poetry & art by the contemporary Cleveland artist & poet Steven B. Smith
Smith - contemporary poet

Art Gallery Plugged In To Shock
Helen Cullinan - The Cleveland Plain Dealer
September 25, 1984

Spaces, a Greenwich Village type gallery that harbors what other galleries avoid, begins the fall season in fine form with a show of divergent shock in the work of four Ohio artists.

The exhibitors are Ron Kowalyk and Steven B. Smith of Cleveland, e.l. sauselen of Bucyrus, and Chris Krider of Columbus. Their works range from a book of computer produced poems to paintings of violence, death and world destruction.

Begin with the latter. The shocker of the group is Kowalyk, who paints despair in blaring bold colors and painterly finesse, which is all the more disarming. He employs a helter-skelter deja vu vocabulary of imagery including airplanes and missiles, big noses, funny faces, embryo forms ice cream cones, little animals and hearts (both the valentine and organic species). Over-all slash strokes of color and a vaguely barbed wire-ish grid structure reinforce the aura of chaos and confinement.

Two general themes appear in Kowalyk's current work. They are that of the mad scientist in the space-age, hell-bent world, and, in a group of somber, relatively monochromatic large drawings, mummies engaged in an after-death life.

Steven Smith shows a variety of found-object relief constructions using newspaper and collage elements, old miniature toys, bits of glitter and mechanical scraps, whatever. The results are interesting and provocative, but more (and even more than Kowalyk) morbid than poetic. Joseph Cornell he is not.

But there is something in Smith's compositions other than poetry or Cornell's cosmos; rather the visualization of probing and seeking, differing vastly from one work to the next.

"I deal in symbolic juxtapositions of the odd and unwanted," Smith writes in his show statement. "My materials consist of cultural castoffs, sociological implications and the refuse known as suburban thought. My goals are simple; erase your labels; learn to look about ... Learn to see dead frog and rust and thus re-see yourself."

Chas Krider shows hand colored photograph in two series - "Urban Knights/Nights" and "The Order of the Holy Glove" - focusing on suburbia both in day and night, and fashion with a 1950s feel and look (though recently taken). His photographs, even those not posed, have an embalmed and stagy flair, and if you lived in the 1050s you recognize those boat-neck, wasp-waisted dresses, lipsticked lips and ever-white-gloved-hands.

"Behind every good color photograph lies a good black-and-white photograph," Krider said. He statrs with very good black-and-white photographs, and his hand-coloring technique in neon colors is superb.

Sauselen, who styles himself e.l. sauselen (a la e.e. cummings) shows a single, large volume of very clean stylized pages of alliterative and onomatopoetic verses accompanied by several bars of music and stick-figure designs. All is composed electronically on office equipment.

The title, "DAU AUD UDA" tells little, but the verses do skip along. This is one of several such art books that sauselen has produced to date, and he is represented in the collections of the Franklin Furnace book-art archives in New York.

Return to Reviews

· excerpts from Smith's interview with Mark Weber
·a smattering of Visitor Comments
· next Newspaper Article
·see Artcrimes #20


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