Art Notes: At AVA Gallery, Installing an Exhibition Is an Intuitive Process

Thursday, June 04, 2015
On a sultry morning, the cool white walls of AVA Gallery and Art Center’s main exhibition space are bare. The artworks from the most recent show s have been taken down, and the next exhibition s, featuring work by Fitzhugh Karol, Christine Hawkins, Judith Wrend and Paul Gruhler, will be going up. The show s open Friday with a reception from 5 to 7 p.m.

Margaret Jacobs, the exhibition coordinator at AVA, has already done a preliminary lay out of works by Claremont artist Christine Hawkins, who will be showing oils on paper in the E.N. Wennberg Gallery. Hawkins’ works haven’t been hung yet, but Jacobs and intern Anna Grallert have arranged the framed pieces, which lean against the walls, in the order they’ll be exhibited.

When she designs an exhibition, Jacobs must take a variety of considerations into account. The first-floor galleries at AVA are not uniform in size, and the building, once home to the H.W. Carter overall factory, has its quirks, including columns throughout the first-floor gallery space and walls of varying heights and lengths. On the other side of the coin, the galleries have an abundance of natural light, high ceilings and character and history.

“There are all these little intricacies,” said Jacobs, a sculptor and Dartmouth College graduate who has worked at AVA for five years. “It’s such a unique space and I love how flexible things can be. We can accommodate grand-scale works and then turn around and accommodate a small show that’s really intimate.”

There’s more to a show than just the placement, said Bente Torjusen, the executive director of AVA Gallery. It begins with the selection of the artists. The gallery usually plans a show a year in advance, and a committee selects the artists.

“It’s an exciting thing when you choose how to pair artists: there may be a thread that connects them,” said Torjusen.

When you go through an art exhibition you’re subjected to hundreds of stimuli that you’re probably not even aware of. The interplay of colors, shapes, subjects, compositions, light and materials works on you at the speed of light. Intellectually, we know that the design of an exhibition isn’t done by chance, although serendipity may play a role on occasion. How a painting or sculpture is shown is calculated for maximum effect, and for the relationship it establishes with the works around it. As viewers, though, we rarely give that conscious thought.

But an astute preparator gives the placement of work in a gallery careful attention because how art is shown can mean the difference between being noticed — or not. The art works speak to each other, and to the viewer. They’re also operating within an art historical, and historical, context, which must also be addressed.

When she’s considering how to design a show, Jacobs is contending with a “combination of practical, logistical and visual elements. But, for me, it’s a little bit more of an intuitive process,” she said.

Do the works fit well together? Are there too many, too few? Is the layout too vertical or too horizontal? Jacobs plays with the design until “it clicks and just fits,” she said.

She likens the progression of works on a wall to a visual sentence: the first word and the last word, taken together, might not make sense, but the words in between link them, she said.

Some artists come in with specific ideas for how they want to hang or place their works, and when they do, Jacobs defers to them. Fitzhugh Karol, a sculptor working in wood who grew up in Orford and now lives in Brooklyn, gave Jacobs a layout, as did sculptor Judith Wrend and painter Paul Gruhler.

Wrend, from Morrisville, Vt., and Gruhler, who lives in nearby Craftsbury Common, are longtime friends who often exhibit their work together. “We want the painting and sculpture to have a conversation,” Gruhler said.

“We consider color, line, form and shape so it’s a conversation in that language,” Wrend said.

The exhibitions at AVA Gallery continue through July 10.

Openings and Receptions

This weekend, the Great Hall in Springfield, Vt., will be exhibiting 12 paintings from the Springfield Art & Historical Society collection, including work from the early 19th century. Hours on Friday are between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. at the Great Hall, 100 River S t.; on Saturday the show is open from noon to 3 p.m. At 1 p.m. Roseanne “Bunni” Putnam, president of the Springfield Art & Historical Society, and Ron Patch, president of the Chester Historical Society, will give a tour of the show. For Saturday’s presentation only the Pearl Street entrance will be open.

Of Note

Two Rivers Printmaking Studio in White River Junction will offer its annual Print Appraisal and Collecting session with New York art dealer Jeannot Barr on Friday and Saturday. As part of First Friday the print show and sale is from 5 to 8 p.m. On Saturday, Barr will offer print appraisals from 1 to 4 p.m. at the studio. For more information: call 802-295-5901 or email


Arabella, Windsor. The gallery exhibits works by local artists and artisans in a variety of media including jewelry, oils, acrylics, photography, watercolors, pastels and textiles.

ArtisTree, Pomfret. “Cosmic Scales,” a show of art by local fifth- and sixth-graders that contains microscopic and telescopic images runs through Saturday.

Big Town Gallery, Rochester, Vt. “¡Viva Cuba!,” a show of photographs by Cuban and American photographers, continues through July 11.

Center for Cartoon Studies, White River Junction. The senior thesis exhibition is up through June 14.

Chandler Gallery, Randolph. Regional art is on view through June 14.

Converse Free Library, Lyme. The Betty Grant Gallery exhibits mosaics by Greg Gorman until July 31.

Aidron Duckworth Museum, Meriden. Duckworth’s “Early Passages in Color,” continues through July 26.

Hall Art Foundation, Reading, Vt. Works by Keith Sonnier and Peter Saul, as well as outdoor sculptures by Richard Deacon, Marc Quinn and Olafur Eliasson, are on view through Nov. 9.

Hood Museum of Art, Hanover. Works by Nigerian artist Victor Ekpuk are on view through Aug. 2. “About Face: Self-Portraiture in Contemporary Art,” is on view through Aug. 30. “Ukara: Ritual Cloth of the Ekpe Secret Society,” a show of Nigerian and Cameroonian textiles continues through Aug. 2. “Water Ways: Tension and Flow,” an exhibition of photographs that focus on the relationship between humans and water, is on view through Aug. 23.

Howe Library, Hanover. A show of photographs of Cuba by Violetta Faulkner is in the library’s Ledyard Gallery through July 29.

Library Arts Center, Newport. The juried regional exhibition is up through June 11.

Long River Gallery and Gifts, Lyme. “An Abstract Conversation: The Art of Mary Jane Morse of Lebanon Meets the Jewelry of Case Hathaway-Zepeda of Norwich” runs until June 27.

Main Street Museum of Art, White River Junction. The museum’s permanent collection is on view

Norwich Public Library. A retrospective of work by Rebecca Gottesman, “Sweet Memories: 25 Years of Making Art,” runs through June 30.

Norman Williams Library, Woodstock. Textile art is on view in the mezzanine gallery through June 30.

Royalton Library. A show about Edward Hopper, who spent time in South Royalton in the late 1930s, is on view through June 13.

Scavenger Gallery, White River Junction. “Tropical,” a show of paintings by Sigrid Lium, is on view.

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