5.24.2015

Toby Sisson: " . . . and other poems"


I made my first trip to Providence, Rhode Island, in almost 40 years. It's a beautiful little city, but I just hadn't had a reason to go back. When I learned that my friend Toby Sisson was having a solo at the Yellow Peril Gallery, however, I made plans for a road trip. 


You can have your green and leafy part of town, over where Brown and RISD are ensconsed, but give me the area with a gritty industrial past. Called Onleyville, it's on the west side of Providence where old factories are slowly being developed into a community of mixed-use buildings that house artists, galleries, and other creative endeavors. It's where the Yellow Peril Gallery resides, in a large building called The Plant. 

The smokestack is entwined by by a steel vine--the industrial version of green and leafy. Yeah, I know it's a development branding gimmick, but it's a nice touch, no? On the first floor of The Plant is where you'll find the gallery.

Left: The smokestack (Image from the Internet)
Below: Entrance to Yellow Peril

Entering the gallery, where
. . . and other poems is on view through May 31

OK, so moving on from the real estate, let's look at the art. Providence-based Toby Sisson has wrested more from black and white than any other artist I know of since Franz Kline. Her scale is modest, with repetetive elements, and she rewards attentive viewing with achromatic subtlety and surface richness.

In this exhibition Sisson reference black and white in a different medium, print, drawing inspiration from the lesser-known poems of James Baldwin. (A copy of the recently published Jimmy's Blues and Other Poems is out for perusal, and you realize it inspired the exhibition's title as well.)

She also draws inspiration from the black-and-white of a cultural divide. Black Tears, an installation wall of 350 small wax-dipped ink drawings, expresses the artist's response to the events in Ferguson, Missouri. Each black tear might be a metaphor for lament, while painting titles such as Chant and Cadence perhaps suggest a different way of dealing with intense emotion.

The Darkest Hour, Chant, and Cadence, all 2014, encaustic on panel, 24 x 12 x 3 inches


 Black Tears, 2015, ink on paper dipped in wax
Can you read the James Baldwin text? "The Artistic image is not intended to represent the thing itself but, rather, the reality of the force the thing contains." 



On the other side of the Black Tears wall, Totems 1-4 . . .



. . . and opposite that wall, a grid of framed monotypes. 

Sisson's oeuvre is rooted in the organic, the biologic, but in this grouping, there is to me, a suggestion of the cosmic. 


3 comments:

Sue Marrazzo said...

lovely post and B & W Works!!

Nancy Natale said...

Really beautiful in so many ways! Congratulations, Toby! Sorry I didn't get there to see it in person. Thanks, Joanne.

Philip Gerstein said...

"Each black tear might be a metaphor for lament, while painting titles such as Chant and Cadence perhaps suggest a different way of dealing with intense emotion." So well phrased, Joanne! >>PHILIP<<