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Art Notes: Painters Get a Space for Conversation at the Tip Top

  • Work from painters Enrico Riley and Patrick Dunfey adorn the walls of 225 Gallery in the Tip Top Building in White River Junction, Vt. Both local painters are Dartmouth alumni and have known each other over the past 10 years, but decided to jointly exhibit bodies of work that they felt shared a certain temperment. An example of Dunfey's work is center, and examples of Riley's work are right and far left. 225 Gallery has already presented two events for the paintings, which will remain on exhibit until mid-August. (Valley News - Mac Snyder) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Painter Ernrico Riley stands for a portrait on Sunday, July 17, 2016, in 225 Gallery in the Tip Top Buidling in White River Junction, Vt. Riley is jointly exhibiting a body of work with colleague Patrick Dunfey that they feel shares a similar temperment in the 225 Gallery until mid-August. (Valley News - Mac Snyder) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Painter Patrick Dunfey stands for a portrait on Sunday, July 17, 2016, in 225 Gallery in the Tip Top Buidling in White River Junction, Vt. Dunfey is jointly exhibiting a body of work with colleague Enrico Riley that they feel shares a similar temperment in the 225 Gallery until mid-August. (Valley News - Mac Snyder) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.



Valley News Staff Writer
Wednesday, July 20, 2016

This May, Patrick Dunfey, an artist who is also the exhibition designer and preparations supervisor at the Hood Museum of Art, was visiting the Tip Top Building in White River Junction when he ran into a woman who’d lost her poodle.

Dunfey volunteered to help her find the dog (which turned up later in another part of the building), and as he wandered down a corridor on the second floor he came across a door that opened onto an empty space.

It was six in the evening, and light poured in through south-facing windows and large square skylights.

Dunfey, who lives with his wife, Amy Dunfey, in Hanover, had long been making his own art in the basement of their house, a place without any natural light. This was the polar opposite, a place where, he said, “the light endlessly moves.”

Dunfey now has a space, 225 Gallery, where he can paint, and where he can exhibit both his own work and that of others. The studio is not an exhibition space, per se, Dunfey said. But it’s possible that he will open it in the future for other shows.

To inaugurate 225 Gallery, Dunfey is currently exhibiting six of his paintings in conjunction with seven paintings by Enrico Riley, who grew up in Richmond, Va., and graduated from Dartmouth in 1995 with a B.A. in visual studies.

Riley went on to get an M.F.A. from Yale, returned to Dartmouth to teach in 2001 and is now a professor in the college’s Studio Art Department.

The two men have known each other since the early 2000s and although they get together fairly regularly to play guitar, they have not previously exhibited their work side by side. In this exhibition at least, the two men have very different styles, and work on a different scale.

Riley’s canvases are 5 feet by 4 feet, give or take, while Dunfey’s are more compact, measuring from 15 inches long to 1 to 2 feet across.

The interplay between the two men’s works could be called a conversation, or you might call it a musical back-and-forth, with Riley and Dunfey trading lines and riffs.

What compels the attention at first glance are Riley’s paintings — and not only because of their scale.

In this summer of our discontent, the paintings resonate with menace and anxiety, and speak to the ever present issue of America’s long, tangled history of racial division. The killings of black men and police in the past two years have provoked outrage, fear and grief, while the events of the last two weeks have provoked commentators to chase analogies to 1968, when the U.S. came apart at the seams.

Riley’s works show disembodied hands and feet bound by thick coils of rope, ropes hanging from tree branches, a body lying somewhat hidden in grass, heavy, menacing gun barrels that poke in from outside the frame, brass horns that may sound an alarm, the bristling tails of dogs that may be tracking humans. All against an intense blue background.

The force of the imagery comes from implication and what is not explicitly shown. The viewer supplies the rest of whatever narrative comes to mind.

“What I guess I saw right away was a completely contemporaneous take on — it’s not history, it’s the emotions of history,” Dunfey said.

Riley began these works in the spring of 2015. He points out that he has not relied on specific images or incidents for these paintings.

Rather, he’s drawing, Riley said, on hundreds of years of history, and art history, in making the images, and is not relying specifically or exclusively on imagery depicting the subjugation of Africans brought by force to the Americas.

Put it this way: Riley’s paintings are just as pertinent in another context, where political instability, torture and violence have led to thousands of deaths — Chechnya, Syria, Iraq and Stalin’s Soviet Union come to mind.

History is filled with accounts of the barbaric things humans do to each other, Riley said. “No one group has a monopoly on suffering.”

And art history has no shortage of work that depicts human brutality: Bosch, Brueghel, Goya, Manet and Picasso, to name a few, have all dealt with the excesses of war.

This is the first time, however, that Riley, whose previous works are rooted in abstraction, has made paintings that “deal overtly with race and violence.”

He doesn’t want to be put in the position of having to speak for an entire race or gender, he said; nor does he want to be pigeonholed as having issued a specific political statement about life in the U.S.

But after the past two years of a seemingly endless loop of shootings and the instant proliferation and pervasiveness of images of death on the internet and in the media, the subject began to ring an insistent bell in the way that ideas begin to push forward in an artist’s mind.

“Never have I had those issues in the forefront of my work, but as an artist you always reserve the right for these unexpected changes to happen and go to them,” Riley said.

Riley began with images of people diving into water. “I had no idea where that would lead me,” he said.

He’s always liked painting rope, he said, which led to seeing rope that binds, which made him think of the possibility of turning rope into horns. Human skin can be transformed into animal skin, a branch can turn into the leg of a horse.

“As an artist it’s your willingness to recognize when something is happening or changing. Do I allow myself to go there? Does this slight change signal that this is something that I should follow? ... I let more and more come in,” Riley said.

Dunfey’s paintings, of pieces of wheels, initials carved into wood, silhouettes of heads, letters bound in ribbon, provide a subtle counterpoint to Riley’s work. They are tucked in next to Riley’s work, and seem to give them a nudge. And they poke at the viewer, too.

“The more you sit with them, the more you see the interplay between them. I think that’s really satisfying,” Riley said.

“How the work came together and how it might work was part of what interested us,” Dunfey said.

Dunfey’s paintings, which are a mixture of ink, dry pigment and acrylic, echo with things unsaid or stored away, of departures and empty rooms and humans left behind, of situations deliberately or unconsciously left unresolved.

He pulled out other paintings, not in the show, that depict money, fish skeletons placed next to corn husks or knotted ropes. They have titles such as Distaff, Missals, Academy, Type or Homestead.

Dunfey begins with words, usually. “My painting is not so much influenced by art but through writing and reading,” he said. “The title will somehow precede the work.”

A word or phrase will come to mind. He carries it around for a while, and then might write it down.

“I’m quietly sitting with that word for a while, and then the image comes together,” Dunfey said.

“At the outset, Patrick’s work might be quieter and a little more indirect, but his work gets to an emotional place where I’m trying to go with my work,” Riley said. “His paintings are cropped or incomplete in a really great way.”

Dunfey, who grew up in Manchester, received a B.F.A. from the Rhode Island School of Design in Providence, and moved with his wife to the Upper Valley from New York in 1985.

Prior to taking the position at the Hood in 2003 he worked as a graphic designer. In the 1980s, he sold a number of works through New York galleries. But it’s been some time, he said, since he has had a gallery show.

“I’m happy to have so much of my work with me now,” Dunfey said. For all the paintings he’s finished there are others that he returns to again and again.

“I’ve come to like the idea of having all this unfinished work. It used to bother me, but now it’s a good thing, instead of, I’m exhausted, my ideas are shot,” Dunfey added.

For years, he said, he thought he didn’t want to make larger paintings but that was because, he now realizes, his home studio didn’t permit it.

While the Hood Museum is closed during its three-year expansion, Dunfey is working on the digitization of the museum collections, and planning both the design of the exhibitions that mark the reopening of the museum, and the design of the Hood Museum Downtown, which opens in September in the old Amidon Jewelers space on South Main Street in Hanover.

For his part, Riley heads in September to Italy to take up a residency at the American Academy in Rome.

This spring, he was awarded the academy’s distinguished Rome Prize, given annually to American artists and scholars who show significant talent. The appointment, which runs nearly a year, allows him to paint and live in the city with no obligations other than to his work. He plans to use the time to study the Renaissance masters.

Whether Riley will continue in his current vein he doesn’t yet know. But the paintings on view at 225 Gallery serve a larger purpose.

“One of the stronger feelings I’ve had is that these aren’t about me. They’re broader than my individual experience,” Riley said.

“There’s so much silence, and this work is not silent,” Dunfey said.

The show is up at least until mid-August. 225 Gallery is open by appointment. To see the work of Patrick Dunfey and Enrico Riley, call Dunfey at 603-513-8861or Riley at 603-359-5214. For more information, go to the gallery website at www.225gallery.com.

Openings and Receptions

AVA Gallery and Art Center in Lebanon hosts an opening reception Friday from 5 to 7 p.m. for its exhibition of pieces by the artists who were awarded citations for outstanding work out in last year’s juried show. The juried show is biennial, and in the year following a juried show the gallery exhibits the artists who were singled out for special notice. This year the artists featured are: Barbara Bartlett, Nira Granott Fox, Erick Hufschmid and Jessie Pollock. The show runs through Aug. 19.

Also opening at AVA on Friday, “Take Another Look: Aging with Dignity” brings together photographs, video and interviews of seniors in Lebanon and Enfield. The exhibition feature 30 photographs by Jodi Austin and Robin Roche, and short filmsabout the seniors by local youth working with CATV. The aim of the exhibition is to sow the challenges and resilience of aging in the Upper Valley. “Take Another Look” is part of the “Senior Stories Project,” which aims to “document and give voice” to seniors in northern New England. The show, which is a collaboration among the United Valley Interfaith Project, ReThink Health: Upper Connecticut River Valley and CATV, opens in AVA’s Johnson Sisters Library on Friday with a reception from 5 to 7 p.m.

Of Note

This Saturday, the Justin Morrill State Historic Site in Strafford will host New Hampshire writer Tracy Kane, who will read from her children’s books on how to make fairy houses. Kane has popularized, or repopularized, the old idea of making fairy houses from materials found in nature, such as leaves, twigs, bark, shells, pine cones and pebbles. Kane will be on hand from 1 to 3 p.m. Children visiting are invited to wear their own costumes, fairy or otherwise.

Ongoing

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.

BigTown Gallery, Rochester, Vt. “Earthly,” an exhibition of drawings by Marcy Hermansader, is on view through Saturday. “Painting in the Neighborhood,” paintings by Celia Reisman and Peter Fried, is on view through Aug. 27. A reception is planned for Aug. 6, 5 to 7 p.m.

Chandler Gallery, Randolph. “Boundaries,” a show featuring the works of numerous New England artists, continues through Sept. 5.

Cider Hill Art Gallery and Gardens, Windsor. Gary Milek exhibits his work in the gallery.

Converse Free Library, Lyme. Japanese nerikomi ceramics by John Quimby are on view until Sept. 30.

Aidron Duckworth Museum, Meriden. “Color — A Theory in Action,” a show of works by Aidron Duckworth, and an exhibition of prints and collages by Philadelphia artist Steven Ford run through Sunday. The sculpture of Terry Lund, on the grounds, is on view through Oct. 30.

Great Hall, Springfield, Vt. An exhibition of photographs documenting life in Springfield, taken by students participating in the Springfield Photovoice initiative, continues through July.

Hall Art Foundation, Reading, Vt. “Landscapes After Ruskin: Redefining the Sublime,” curated by photographer Joel Sternfeld, continues through Nov. 27.

Hopkins Center, Hanover. Dartmouth College’s Department of Studio Art presents the POD Award exhibition in the Jaffe-Friede and Strauss Galleries in the Hopkins Center through Aug. 21.

Howe Library, Hanover. “Paths, Streams and Days of Small Things,” a show of pastels and watercolors by Lynda Knisley, runs through Wednesday.

Norwich Historical Society. A show of plein air paintings by local artists continues through July 30. Hours are Wednesdays and Thursdays, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to noon.

Norwich Public Library, “Quotography: Photos by EM Reynolds” is on display until Aug. 30.

Kilton Public Library, West Lebanon. An exhibition of landscapes and cityscapes by Lyme painter and illustrator Meg McLean is on view through Sept. 30.

Library Arts Center, Newport. “The Landscape We Call Home” runs through Aug. 26.

Long River Gallery and Gifts, Lyme. “SKIN! (exposed)” includes works by Stephanie Reininger, Betsy Derrick, Liliana Paradiso, Nils Johnson, Meredith Muse and Doug Masury. Through Sept. 6.

Roth Center for Jewish Life, Hanover. “White on Black: Images of Antigua,” an exhibition of photographs by Mort Wise, is on view through Sept. 13.

Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site, Cornish. Standing Lincoln is now on view. “Arrangements,” an exhibit of work by Kirsten Hassenfeld, a 2014 Saint-Gaudens Fellow, is on view in the Picture Gallery through Monday.

Scavenger Gallery, White River Junction. The gallery is closed this Friday and Saturday. Artists Ben Peberdy and David Powell bring their version of Hitchcock’s The Birds to the gallery.

SculptureFest, Woodstock. The annual celebration of three-dimensional art, is on view at the farm of Charlet and Peter Davenport. This year’s featured sculptors are Judith Wrend and Joseph Chirchirillo. The show remains open for public browsing through foliage season. A second piece of the show, curated by Edythe Wright and Jay Mead, opens in September at the nearby King Farm. For more information, go to sculpturefest.org.

Tunbridge Library. “Quartets,” a show by artists Janet Cathey and Kristen Johnson, is on display until Sept. 3.

Two Rivers Printmaking Studios, White River Junction. “Used to Be,” prints and fabrics by Emily Parrish, is up through July.

Zollikofer Gallery, White River Junction. “To Be Determined 2.0,” an exhibition of David Powell’s collages, altered photographs, digital prints and tapestries, is at the gallery in the Hotel Coolidge through Wednesday.

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