Across Generations

“Patient and Plant," by March Avery

“Patient and Plant," by March Avery

Beacon gallery again pairs ‘old’ and ‘new’ artists

Two women — one in her 60s and the other in her 80s, one a sculptor and the other a painter — are paired in Parts & Labor Beacon’s latest exhibit, which runs through Jan. 30. 

Parts & Labor Beacon’s exhibitions consist primarily of two artist presentations, engaging an emerging or mid-career contemporary artist with a more historically recognized artist. The combination casts a light on not just their similarities and differences, but sparks a novel, unexpected way of considering both together.

In this case, there’s a domesticity present in each artist’s work. Avery, the daughter of two artists, painters Milton Avery and Sally Michel Avery, was born in 1932 and worked in relative obscurity for years. She was “discovered” a few years ago by artist and dealer Jenni Crain, who curated a show of Avery’s work at the Louise McCagg Gallery at Barnard College. (Sadly, Crain died on Dec. 16 at age 30 of COVID-related complications.)

That 2019 show, says Nichelle Beauchaine of Parts & Labor, “catapulted Avery into everybody’s consciousness.” She describes Avery’s paintings as “very personal, about her own life experiences, with scenes of different domestic situations. She uses figurative block colors, and reduced, simplified forms with tactile surfaces; there’s a stillness in her compositions.” 

Elisabeth Kley, born in 1956, makes up the contemporary half of the pairing.

“Generationally, they respond in different ways, though they’re both very much ingrained in modernism,” Beauchaine explains.

The exhibit features Kley’s monochromatic ceramic sculptures and vessels, modeled on those of ancient civilizations, which are modernized, given black-and-white glazes, and transformed by Kley’s decorative surface designs and patterns from many eras. Last year, her work was displayed at The Fabric Institute and Museum in Philadelphia.

March Avery painting

“Two Artists & a Critic,” by March Avery

Parts & Labor describes Kley’s style as “pulling from various art historical movements.” Says Kley: “I feel that that’s the history of art: People keep transforming things from the past. I like to think I’m continuing that evolution.”

In putting the two women together, a dialogue was born, Beauchaine says. “Moving from Kley’s monochromatic work, with its form as domestic vessels, to March’s interior paintings, done in color, they seem in conversation with each other. When we curate these shows, they always seem to result in magical moments, when the pieces from both artists riff off each other. These two work well together. They have amazing forms — a kind of power.”

Parts & Labor Beacon, located at 1154 North Ave., is open from noon to 6 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays, or by appointment (text or call 206-387-2556). For more information, see partsandlaborbeacon.com.

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