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Blossoming Impossibly

Three Harwood artists celebrate springtime

“A Second Life” by Karl Hofmann
“A Second Life” by Karl Hofmann
May has arrived, bringing flowers and new exhibits by three budding New Mexico artists at the Harwood Art Center: Ken Frink, Karl Hofmann and KB Jones. Taken together, the trio conveys a rebirth, a springtime ecstasy, a surge of intense emotions or a revelation. If you come to the Harwood Art Center, be prepared to take in something that we don’t hear much about these daysat least not in the news: Hope abounds, and there’s pleasure to be had in “creating moments of order in a sea of chaos.”

Magnum Opus: New prints by Ken Frink

A print from Ken Frink’s Magnum Opus
A print from Ken Frink’s Magnum Opus
At first Ken Frink’s 560 combinations of 16 colors of ink (“I printed one example of every possible three-color combination”) sounds like a scientific experiment. Yet as he writes in his artist’s statement, with his collection of prints titled Magnum Opus, he set out to create “a quiet, colorful space for contemplation” because “color can tap into powerful emotional spaces.”

I found this large collection of small prints inexplicably uplifting. Each color combination elicits a different feeling, making each print a Polaroid of an emotional state. Gleeful scratches and swirls riddle the surfaces. This is the pleasure of Magnum Opus: 560 flavors of positive human sentiment. Because color and a heightened emotional state are such great bedfellows, lingering in the main gallery with Frink’s work is akin to spending time in a Gothic cathedral and watching the light change as it pours through the stained-glass windows.

“A Second Life”: An installation by Karl Hofmann

Another view of “A Second Life”
Another view of “A Second Life”
At first it looks like a game of pickup sticks frozen in midair. Made from dozens of recycled pieces of wood accented with clamps of different colors and shapes, the structure rises up from the floor to the ceiling and is rooted at the bottom in blocks of cement and garbage cans. Hofmann adds just a hint of primary colors here and there to the otherwise blond wood.

“Making artwork for me is part pleasure and part revealing and expressing my own psychological turbulence,” Hofmann says in his written statement. “It is a continual process of creating moments of order in a sea of chaos.” “A Second Life” is carefully choreographed chaos with a satisfying symmetry to it. A few large arching bands pull the eye in and give the entire work a dancer-like cohesion and grace.

Under close inspection, there is an upward, twisting thrust towards the artificial light. While the heavy garbage cans and blocks of cement keep it all earthbound, everything else pulls towards the sky. In fact, there’s a soaring, heaven-bound beauty to the upper pieces of wood: They promise hope and rebirth.

“Drowned Floor”: An installation by KB Jones

“Drowned Floor” by KB Jones
“Drowned Floor” by KB Jones
KB Jones’ painting “Drowned Floor” is Monet meets Jackson Pollack: flowing energetic shapes and colors depicting pollen, branches, leaves and flowers in water. Fluorescent dots, furry waves and squiggly shapes convey a buoyant mood. It’s the blossoming of springtime in red, orange, violet, yellow and lime. According to the accompanying text, the lines and colors of the installation evoke “the surrounding landscape of New Mexico.” This is a celebration of the natural life we’re so blessed with here that we’re swimming in it. (Or is that a mirage in the desert?) In short, “Drowned Floor” is refreshingly optimistic.

In addition to her work at Harwood, KB Jones has another exhibit (All-Purpose Flour) opening on Thursday, May 8, at John Sommers Gallery, from 5 to 7pm. The gallery is located on the second floor of the art building, room 202, on the UNM campus. Gallery hours are Monday through Friday, 8:15am to 4:45pm.

Jones will also give a talk on Friday, May 9, at 10am at the UNM Central Campus, CFA Building, Room 1020.

Whether working with prints, wood or paint, all three artists affirm a sense of exuberance. And the celebratory experience at the heart of their exhibits reflects the splendor of the natural world. This meeting of the human spirit with springtime’s beauty brings to mind Li-Young Lee’s poem “From Blossoms,” which concludes:

There are days we live

as if death were nowhere

in the background; from joy

to joy to joy, from wing to wing,

from blossom to blossom to

impossible blossom, to sweet impossible blossom.

---

Alison Oatman, a writer living in Albuquerque, has just finished a novel. Catch her on the web at alisonoatman.com.

May Exhibitions: Ken Frink, Karl Hofmann, and K.B. Jones

Runs through Thursday, May 29

Harwood Art Center
1114 Seventh Street NW
242-6367, harwoodartcenter.org
Gallery Hours: Monday through Thursday 9am-5pm and Friday 9am-4pm
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