s/ART/q Contemporary Art will soon bid farewell to two of its members, Brian Haverlock and Sabrina Small, who are currently perched on the cusp of new adventures as they prepare for a move away from Sarasota in pursuit of professional opportunities in Montclair, N.J. and Philadelphia, respectively.
Haverlock and Small are hardly sitting back and biding their time as the calendar creeps closer to their impending departure. Instead, the artists have dug deep into their portfolios to present “Moving Through Time,“ a joint exhibition at Clothesline Gallery that will kick off on Saturday and run through July 21.
Moving Through Time features a comprehensive selection of both artists’ works from 2005-2012. In addition to a collection that spans seven years of their individual evolution as artists, the exhibit also includes approximately 15 pieces from a collaborative effort Haverlock and Small embarked upon in 2009.
The duo utilized the Surrealist method of multiple-artist, semi-random image assembly known as the Exquisite Corpse to create the joint series which, until this exhibition, remained hidden entirely from the public eye. Much like the name implies, each piece in the series is a bizarre juxtaposition of the graceful and the grotesque, resulting in composite figures that are simultaneously challenging and hauntingly beautiful.
Exquisite Corpse was born from wordplay games coined during the Dada movement and re-appropriated in 1925 as a parlor game by a group of artists such as André Breton, Marcel Duchamp and Yves Tanguy, who introduced the visual elements of drawing and collage to the game.
Participants in this collaborative art-making method divide a picture plane into sections and each artist draws the part of the body in one section before folding the paper and passing it to the next artist. The result is a strange and disconcerting “Exquisite Corpse,” stitched together in a method not unlike a patchwork quilt — or, perhaps, the monster of Frankenstein.
“For us, it’s a great way to generate new ideas,” said Small. “I think sometimes you get immersed so deeply in your own style that when you do things like this with other artists, it helps introduce a new perspective. It’s like, ‘Wow, what a great idea. I never thought of a head looking that way.’”
Although their styles differ drastically, both the artists’ collaborative works and their individual projects cohabitate the intimate space in the Clothesline Gallery in harmony. The heterogeneously-arranged pieces play off one another, exuding the same air of energetic camaraderie one might expect to experience while mingling behind the scenes amongst the living oddities at a turn-of-the-century carnival sideshow — not surprising, as both artists say they are influenced heavily by the circus culture embedded in Sarasota’s past and present.
Small’s strange and dreamlike figures, some of the most graceful of which are actually threaded to their canvas in delicately-embroidered line work, consistently maintain an evocative stature despite the bashful anxiety that practically seems to tremor within the frame that cages them. These strange misfit characters — Siamese twins, three-legged tree stumps, hybrids of aquatic creatures and humans, faceless entities masked by masses of elaborately braided hair — demand attention with their quiet intensity.
“Her work borders on the grotesque, but the delicate line and color makes it almost look like candy,” Haverlock said of his partner. “It’s a really wonderful dichotomy between the grotesque and the beautiful.”
In contrast to Small’s delicate figures, Haverlock’s bold and confrontational collage-style characters meet eyes of the viewers and scream a silent challenge to hold their gaze. Haverlock, who holds a masters degree in theology, blends complex and heavy iconographic elements with tongue-in-cheek and sometimes bawdy humorous themes that illicit reactions, invert preconceptions and challenge the audience to look within and construct a personal narrative based on the emotions the image evokes, rather than accepting it at face value.
“These are not specific events of people,” said Haverlock, who explained that in recent years he has begun to integrate circus-inspired carnival characters such as the Cactus Man and the Tin Man into his iconography.
“I’m influenced by my surroundings, but I’m definitely not politically-driven. I’m really not even religiously-driven,” he added.
The opening reception for the exhibition, which takes place from 5 to 9 p.m. on Saturday, June 30, at Clothesline Gallery, will also feature a rare appearance by a musician and performer known as “The Beast.”
Despite residing in Bradenton and being internationally recognized for his performances in countries such as Switzerland, Belgium, Japan and Germany, the performance artist who calls himself The Beast is a self-proclaimed recluse who has never played a show locally.
“I really don’t know what’s going to happen on Saturday,” said Small, who is a close friend of the artist. She went on to describe him as a lifelong musician who makes his own instruments; a one-man orchestra, and hinted that his name, “The Beast,” is derived from his appearance.
“It may be a little disconcerting, but I think it fits in really well with our work. I’m curious to see how the audience reacts. I think it’s going to be a real treat,” she said. “It will definitely give Sarasota something to talk about.”
Giving this town something to talk about seems like a just and fitting farewell from two of the local scene’s most edgy and prolific artistic voices.
Free wine and appetizers catered by Mozzarella Fella will provide the necessary fuel to take in the sights and sounds at the opening reception on Saturday. For more information, contact Clothesline gallery director, Van Jazmin, at 941-536-3228 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.