Restrictions can be a powerful impetus for creativity — parents whose bedtime rules are questioned would agree. Artists never lose their sense of questioning, but resort to fresh approaches when boundaries are imposed.
And that is why an inviting river scene painted on a credit card can be seen at Manifest Gallery right now.
Magnitude Seven, Manifest’s 10th annual exhibit of works no larger than 7 inches in any dimension, fills two galleries with an assortment of pieces whose most apparent common trait is size. They form a pleasing array that invites close scrutiny.
The original idea for the Magnitude Seven series was to encourage entries from distant places, as small works present fewer challenges in shipping. The arbitrary “7 inches in any dimension” was decided on, and has produced, through the years, scores of entries from scores of places.
This year the 23 works on view come from 19 artists who live in 12 U.S. states (Texas to Maine and points between) and three other countries (Canada, Scotland, Slovakia). Only one in 10 of the submitting artists made the cut. Their work is varied in medium and intent but united by its lively delight in responding to the exhibition’s challenge.
About that credit card: Tim Hahn (Augusta, Mo.) calls it “Credit Card #3” — is the artist systematically curbing his spending by painting on his cards? Here he uses relatively broad — given the size of the card — strokes of acrylic to suggest a bend in a river, orange touches to blue/greens.
I like it.
“Credit Card #3” is in the first of the two galleries given over to Magnitude Seven. Only paintings, the dominant form of the show, are seen here. Informal portraits, carried out for the artist’s satisfaction rather than the subject’s, are frequent.
Donna Festa (Bangor, Maine) uses red tellingly in her “Woman with Short White Hair.” The subject is looking sideways, wryly skeptical. Spencer Corbett (Brighton, Mich.) in “Concert Snoozer” shows us someone with head tilted, blue-rimmed glasses pushed to forehead and mouth open, carried out in swift strokes of oil on panel.
Philip Gurrey (Glasgow, Scotland) also uses oils in what seem to be sure but quick movements for “Cornelis van der Geest,” paring down the face to eyes, nose and mustache but rendering the eyes delicately and precisely, in contrast to the other features.
Three-dimensional works, along with additional two-dimensional pieces, are in the second gallery. Among these is perhaps the most intriguing object in the show: “Euphoria,” by Hwayong Jung (Jersey City, N.J.). The artist’s glowing box uses HD video, acrylic mirrors and an iPad mini to evoke what does indeed come very close to euphoria. The sound, like the murmur of deep water, is as mesmerizing as the constantly moving and evolving visual element, which I wrote down as “unidentifiable shapes, like animals of some other sphere” — a screwy note that suggests the euphoric spell this piece casts.
Next to “Euphoria,” with its sophisticated use of new methods, is a witty mixed media piece that dispenses with new methods entirely and puts to use mostly things that could be found on your desk or mine.
Stacey Holloway (Birmingham, Ala.) employs two pushpins, a short length of string and a piece of paper painted to look like sky and folded into a V shape like a paper plane for “Hung Out to Dry.” Two tiny clothespins hold the “sky” in place. The whole thing makes you smile, then makes you wonder if more is being suggested than a damp sky after a rain.
Many of these artists, however, are busy putting new techniques to the service of their art. What might pass as a hand-shaped three-dimensional head by McArthur Freeman (Temple Terrace, Fla.) is apparently one of a series: “Poly-Faces: Michel” consists of 3D prints in gypsum.
The entry from Slovenia, by Ria Kmetova, is a digital photograph called “White Mornings,” with a wrinkled sheet like an abstract painting, a hand and a swirl of hair.
This exhibition is a pleasure to explore, the restriction of size an impetus rather than a barrier. Two other interesting exhibitions are also on view at Manifest now: Rites of Passage, presenting work by artists and their one-time teachers, and MAR Showcase, the work of this year’s Manifest Artists in Residence.
MAGNITUDE SEVEN and its companion shows
are on view at Manifest Gallery (2727 Woodburn Ave., East Walnut Hills)
through June 27. More information here.