Participatory Guessing Game: UNTOLD STORIES at Fountain Street
Written byJ. Fatima Martins
The immediate condition and activity conveyed within the pictures made by painters Anita Loomis and Alexandra Rozenman is extrapolation. As the title of their current exhibition, “Untold Stories,” directly tells us, the paintings allow and welcome conjecture. The artists have created environments that focus the viewer’s attention towards inference, encouraging the seer to intellectually step into and become part of vague spaces and curious scenes — to participate in a surreal guessing game.
For the viewer, the stories within the compositions are open-ended and puzzling, being directed in possibility by the depicted visual objects and glimpses of human form. We approach these compositions by asking what’s going on. Some paintings depict relatable imagery such as domestic interiors, landscapes and active scenes, while others are expressive and fantastical with abstracted and speculative shapes and figures.
Conceptually, at first glance, these paintings do not offer anything particularly unusual; although intriguing and visually arresting, they are a continuation of a long and firm tradition of artists creating enigmatic, metaphorical and symbolic imagery open to viewer interpretation. Moreover, in material technique and formal style, they appear as common contemporary artworks.
So, what’s the twist with Loomis and Rozenman? Why are they important and worthy of investigation? Their easy, likeable quality is a clever and important trick in the narrative direction in which the viewer begins at one point of meaning and ends up with a new set of questions. What is special and unique about the places depicted is subject awareness and artist intention. In creating their paintings, both artists set the stage intentionally so that the scenes are presented as hushed, placid and mundane; the drama and secrets are unexpected.
Loomis and Rozenman are conscious of their image making. There is sly dark humor, subtle subversive commentary, unfinished activity, riddles, flirty fun and a lot of private emotion. Marie Craig, co-founder of Fountain Street Fine Art, explained in the exhibition statement that “Untold Stories … aims to challenge viewers by presenting scenes and situations that make you look twice.”
Viewed from the gallery website prior to its opening, Rozenman’s series is described as arriving from a body of work called “Transplanted” which focuses “on humorous narratives of cohabiting, moving with, running to, waiting for … famous artists across history.” In these works, the artist places herself, in an understated, almost invisible manner, within the compositions, as subject and metaphor, to show in physical form what it could feel like to be influenced by, live with, and long for the creative ghosts of dead artists. The narratives are highly ambiguous, indirect and a bit confusing. The imagery is self-aware, but the stories are not obvious.