×

Art Notes: Painter Takes a Long View of the U.S.

  • Artist Enrico Riley stands outside the Jaffe-Friede Gallery where his show "Infinite Receptors" will be on display until Nov. 12 at the Hopkins Center in Hanover, N.H., on Oct. 2, 2017. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Artist Enrico Riley has a show of his work at the Jaffe-Friede Gallery at Hopkins Center in Hanover, N.H. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • “Evening: Together We Can Do Anything,” a recent painting by Enrico Riley, is emblematic of the turn his work has taken toward more figurative subjects and toward the themes of violence and struggle. (Courtesy image)

  • “Untitled: Respect,” a 2017 painting by Enrico Riley, is among the works on display in “Infinite Receptors,” a show of Riley’s recent work in the Jaffe-Friede Gallery of the Hopkins Center at Dartmouth College. (Courtesy image)



Valley News Staff Writer
Thursday, October 05, 2017

This summer, the artist Enrico Riley, a professor in the department of Studio Art at Dartmouth College, returned to the Upper Valley after 10 months living with his family in Rome.

He was a recipient of the Rome Prize, which pays to bring artists to the American Academy, and gives them a stipend and a place to live. It is one of the highest honors that an artist can be awarded, and in important ways, Riley said in an interview, it was life-changing.

Riley, who is in his 40s, is showing paintings and drawings from his Rome fellowship in an exhibition in the Jaffe-Friede Gallery at the Hopkins Center. The work expands on themes that Riley has been developing for a few years, namely the confluence of racism and violence.

The paintings and drawings are replete with images of gun barrels, hands thrown up in surrender, or bound by rope, heads bowed in mourning, legs diving into water, clenched fists and trumpets. They evoke repression and resistance, and grief.

Although Riley’s more recent paintings have emerged from his thinking about the history of African-Americans in this country, the paintings are not intended to be read as only about their experience.

Suffering is universal. The poisonous brew of violence, conflict and racism is universal. And from the distant perspective of another country, Riley said, “you can see more closely the soil you were born on: That’s eye-opening.”

So, like much art, the work is complex, and works on many levels. Its origin can’t be traced back to one or more shootings, or one specific event.

“I became very aware and attuned to a continuum of violence in the origins of our country,” Riley said.

In Rome, where time is measured in thousands of years, rather than hundreds as in the U.S., there’s a broader understanding of the flow and ebb of civilizations — what they exacted and also what they contributed. There is less illusion, less denial, Riley said; or at least, they harbor different illusions.

What Rome gave him, he said, was the realization that issues he was framing as being particular to African-Americans could be “contextualized in a broader sense of history.”

And while there is ample evidence in Rome, Riley said, of conquest, turmoil and suffering, there is also the enduring allure of the Eternal City

The nexus of art, culture and history is deeply embedded in Rome’s buildings, streets and monuments.  Seventeenth- and 18th-century buildings are thrown up against second-century, or earlier, structures, Riley said.

The light in Rome is “particular and engrossing and specific,” he said. It shimmers off the stucco, limestone and paint. The colors seeped subtly into his painting. He’d wanted to go to Rome because of his interest in Renaissance and Baroque art, and was rewarded time and again: stopping into churches that house Caravaggios or paintings by Fra Angelico.

“You live with these artistic forms; that’s just really different than our culture,” Riley said. “There’s a thread intact back to the past that is more unbroken than what we have here in the States.”

To be outside the U.S. in the period leading up to and after the 2016 presidential election was somewhat disorienting, Riley said. “You didn’t have a fine-grained sense of the disposition of the country, and the disposition of the people.”

There was sense of both relief and of reactions delayed. “I felt that because I knew I was going back, I knew I was going to have to confront all this at some point.”

Riley, who this academic year is chairman of the Studio Art Department, graduated from Dartmouth and earned a Master of Fine Arts degree from Yale. He measures out his thoughts with great deliberation.

He began as an abstract painter but in recent years, after becoming a father, he has shifted away from pure abstraction to more figurative work, which seemed more appropriate for the themes he was beginning to examine.

“I began to close certain doors and open newer doors and that affects what the paintings look like,” he said.

Once he began to use “racially identifiable skin tone,” he said, it pushed him into a “certain kind of commitment.” Once the “works became more specifically about race then it became more important for shapes to be tangible. If I was trying to bring attention to the realness of the black body, I needed to paint it in a way that was more tangible.

“In a lot of instances African-Americans might not be seen as real. This is a body that has dimension and it is being acted upon,” Riley said.

The titles of his works also tell the story: Repeating Histories, Resistance, Diving: Transatlantic Escape and A Lack of Options, among others.

Riley has begun introducing female protagonists into his work, as seen in the painting Untitled: Respect, which he finished a month after the U.S. presidential election. You see a woman’s legs, from mid-calf down. She’s wearing black platform shoes. At first glance, she appears to be sitting at a table, but on second glance it’s just as plausible that she is standing in a voting booth. A torn piece of paper, or maybe a ballot, lies on the floor.

His hope is that viewers will stop long enough in front of his work to make an imaginative leap into the bodies of the people he is depicting.

“The point in this art is to try to get into a different conversation with ourselves,” he said.

“Infinite Receptors,” recent work by Enrico Riley, continues at the Jaffe-Friede Gallery in the Hopkins Center through Nov. 12.

Openings and Receptions

Two Rivers Printmaking Studio in White River Junction holds a First Friday reception for artists Lois Masor Beatty and Maureen O’Connor Burgess from 6 to 8 p.m. Both women will show collagraph prints. The show runs through Nov. 30. Gallery hours are Tuesday to Friday, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., or by appointment.

Also as part of First Friday, the Barrette Center for the Arts in White River Junction hosts an opening from 5 to 7 p.m. for the exhibition “Opening Doors to the Heart, Mind and Imagination,” a show of work by Elizabeth D’Amico, of Springfield, N.H., and Rich Gombar, a White River Junction resident. D’Amico has brought collages, prints and sculpture, some of which were made specifically to complement the Northern Stage repertoire. Gombar paints the New England landscape. The exhibition continues through Nov. 3.

Scavenger Gallery in White River Junction gets in on the First Friday action with a show of shadow boxes, assemblages and short films by Thetford resident Richard Fedorchak, one of whose assemblages, with a nod to Joseph Cornell, was in the juried exhibition this summer at AVA Gallery and Art Center in Lebanon. There will also be a wine tasting of small-batch, artisanal wines. Hours are 5:30 to 7:30 p.m

The Zollikofer Gallery in the Hotel Coolidge in White River Junction is showing works by members of the Vermont Pastel Society. Mark your calendars: There will be an opening reception on First Friday, Nov. 3, from 5 to 7 p.m.

East Randolph artist Marcia Hammond will exhibit portraits done in oil at Kilton Public Library in West Lebanon through Jan. 31. The show opens Friday.

If you’re inclined to head down to the Hall Art Foundation in Reading, you can enjoy a First Friday tour of the substantial collection without being accompanied by a docent, and at your own pace. Hours are 5 to 8 p.m. There are three shows on view through Nov. 26: “Hope and Hazard: A Comedy of Eros,” a show of more than 80 paintings on the subject of romantic and sexual love; “Ready. Fire! Aim,” a collaboration between the foundation and Burlington City Arts; and a solo show by David Shrigley.

The Library Arts Center in Newport brings back its biennial exhibition of quilts in “Fall Into Quilts: an exhibit by the Soo-Nipi Quilters Guild” with a reception on Friday, from 5 to 7 p.m. The show runs through Oct. 26.

Ongoing

ArtisTree Gallery, Pomfret. The annual fall exhibition “Local Color,” which concentrates on the work of local artists inspired by the New England landscape, runs through Oct. 21.

AVA Gallery and Art Center, Lebanon. The encaustic paintings of Stephanie Gordon are on view in the Johnson Sisters Library on the second floor. The downstairs galleries exhibit the work of China Marks, Janet Hulings Bleicken and Leah Woods. All four shows end Friday.

BigTown Gallery, Rochester, Vt. “Land, Sea and Sky,” paintings by Peter Brooke, are on view at the Rochester Gallery through Oct. 21; the wood sculptures of Hugh Townley are on view through Dec. 2. “See the Woods for the Trees,” arboreal-themed paintings by part-time Vermont resident Joan Kahn, is up through Oct. 14.

Center for the Arts, New London. Three exhibitions are on view in micro-galleries throughout town: “Kearsarge and Beyond,” a collection of photographs by New London resident Larry Harper, are on view at the Lake Sunapee Bank in New London. Enfield artist Amy Fortier exhibits “Faux-Zaic Designs” in the micro-gallery at Whipple Hall. Maria Blanck, a part-time resident of New London, and Yvonne Shukovsky, of Springfield, N.H., show their work in the exhibition “Potpourri” in the lobby of the New London Inn. All through Oct. 28.

Chandler Gallery, Randolph. “From Green to Fall: Celebrating Creativity in Mental Health, Wellness and Recovery,” an exhibition of work by local artists concerned with issues of mental health, runs through Nov. 5.

Chelsea Public Library. “In The Garden,” a show of watercolor and mixed-media paintings by part-time Corinth resident Megan Murphy, runs through October.

Chew & Co. Design, Hanover. The water photographs of Rockland, Maine resident Joan Wright are on view through November.

Cider Hill Gardens and Gallery, Windsor. “Converging Viewpoints,” a show of work by Gary Milek and Charlie Shurcliff, runs through Oct. 28. Also on view at the gallery and gardens are sculpture, painting and installations by Steven Proctor, Herb Ferris, Gary Haven Smith and the Mythmakers.

Converse Free Library, Lyme. “Landscapes: Lyme and Tuscany,” an exhibition of work by Greg Gorman in the Betty Grant Gallery runs through Dec. 29. Gorman will donate 10 percent of his art sales to the Friends of Lyme Library.

Aidron Duckworth Museum, Meriden. Massachusetts artist Tracy Spadafora exhibits her paintings and assemblages in “Everything Underlying: Work from the DNA and Evolve Series.” Sculptures by Claremont artist Ernest Montenegro are on view, as is “Pride of Plainfield,” a community exhibition celebrating the town’s agricultural richness through photographs, articles and audio. All through Oct. 29.

Long River Gallery and Gifts, White River Junction. “The True Beauty of Clay,” a show of sculpture, pottery and jewelry by artist-in-residence Anna Hranovska Vincelette, runs through Oct. 31.

Norwich Public Library. An exhibition of photographs by Norwich resident Seth Goodwin, “Spaces and Places: Photographs from Near and Far,” is on view through Oct. 28.

Philip Read Memorial Library, Plainfield. “A World of Color,” a multimedia exhibit featuring work by 12 artists from Plainfield, Cornish and Windsor, is up through Oct. 14.

Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site, Cornish. The Canadian sculptor Cal Lane’s show “It Was Never Like This” continues through October.

SculptureFest, Woodstock. The extension of SculptureFest is curated by Jay Mead and Meg Brazill, and features work by Mary Admasian, Ethan Ames, Barbara Bartlett, Brenna Colt, Charlet Davenport, Nera Granott Fox, Susie Gray, Rachel Gross, Margaret Jacobs, Marek Jacism, Jay Mead, Mary Mead, Murray Ngoima, Tracy Penfield, Otto Pierce, Cristina Salusti and Jeffrey Simpson.

Tunbridge Public Library. An exhibition of “Landscapes from Around New England” by artist Pat Little continues through Oct. 20.

Nicola Smith can be reached at nsmith@vnews.com.