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Exhibit shows paper to be anything but plain

From a simple sheet on which to draw, to it's combination with glue and water to make papier-mache sculptures, paper is the most common of art materials and, yet, undoubtedly the most versatile.

James Gallery director Paul Cicozi asked a selection of local and nationally recognized artists the gallery represents to produce works made with paper for the exhibit "Pulp Friction." The show is up, and, as visitors will see, all of the artists who participated have used paper -- often in unpredictable ways.

Cicozi says that what is unique about this exhibit is that each artist has a distinctly different approach to manipulating the material. "The use of paper is the underlying theme, but everyone in the show has taken it in a different direction as far as process and use of the material," he says.

The first thing visitors will see upon entering the gallery are Scott Sandell's "Kites," which are three large-scale hanging artworks that are suspended from the rafters of the gallery space.

Incorporating digital imagery printed on large sheets of paper, each kite-like form is suspended inside an aluminum ring that, in theory, allows them to move with the subtlest of breezes within a space. Being close-up shots of graphs on paper and organic matter, the imagery is not discernibly specific. Rather, simple shapes and vibrant colors become the focus of these large-scale works that are sure to grab attention, even from the street.

Not far away hangs a large-scale encaustic painting titled "Juice" by Lorraine Glessner, which also incorporates digital prints. It's the largest of several works by this Philadelphia-based artist who incorporates digital imagery of very real things, such as flamingos and flowers, among layer upon layer of thick, pigmented wax, ultimately forming very abstract compositions that are unusual for their subtle changes in texture and hue.

Not just paper, but sandpaper is the medium of choice for Barbara Rachko from New York City. A frequent traveler to Mexico and Guatemala, the artist is a collector of folk art in the form of brightly painted wooden masks and dolls, which she uses as subject matter for her pastel drawings. The three of them on view here -- "Alpha," "Paranoia" and "Stasis" -- feature a wide array of these folk art figures fleshed out in layer upon layer of thick, saturated color.

Much of the remaining works on display are by locals. South Hills-based Bovey Lee has several of her rice-paper cutouts on display. Most notable is "The Zodiac Project," which is comprises illustrations of the animal characters of each of the 12 signs of the Chinese zodiac calendar, painstakingly cut out of thin sheets of rice paper.

Making the most of old books, magazines and pieces of scrap paper, David Wallace of Turtle Creek displays a dozen collages that have a certain minimalist flair, yet speak volumes. For example, the piece "Twofold" features a man with demonic eyes, thanks to two red dots, properly placed. Devilish in his appearance, he is quite the opposite of the lovely ladies featured in "In Bloom" and "My Studies," who are beautifully arranged with flowers in their hair.

Contrast is an element shared with Patricia Bellan-Gillen's much larger "Diver/Whirlpool" monoprint that hangs opposite Wallace's collection of works. This Burgettstown-based artist and Carnegie Mellon University professor of art is known for using juxtaposition in her work, and this piece is no different.

As to be expected, there are several works in the show that push the limits in terms of paper. Most notably, the work of Dana Ingham of McKees Rocks who takes the simple art form of cut paper into three dimensions. Well, actually four, thanks to the use of silvered paper that casts shadows and light among the tiny figures of folks he photographed walking the streets of Pittsburgh, then meticulously cut to miniature scale.

And Amy Lipshie of Fox Chapel has made the most of cereal boxes, which she has cut, folded, woven and glued into magnificent sculptures. One resembles the Stanley Cup, and another, titled "Sunburn," resembles a Grecian urn. Colorful, quirky and quite funny, they really are a sight to behold.

Finally, Paul Chojnowski of Atlanta has taken paper to the edge, of destruction that is, with his self-described "fire drawings." Four of them on display here contain a familiar view of Downtown Pittsburgh, but remarkably, each was made with a blowtorch. With soft hues of burnt sienna and blackened ash, they seem to flicker as if still on fire. Quite the successful artist, Chojnowski has made these types of drawings of many cities, mostly New York. But Cicozi asked him specifically to come up with ones that featured our city, and he has done so wonderfully


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