Except from Alternative Central in Harrisburg, September-October

by Ricki Sablove

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360 Degrees of Unity:
With circle as their theme, six artists
find common ground in diverse forms


Conceived and curated by Debra Miller, "Inner Circles" features works by David Foss, James Fuhrman, Michelle Marcuse, Antonio Puri, Vincent Romaniello, and Tremain Smith, each of whom has brought a deeply personal vision to shared ideas. In the essay that introduces her thoughtful exhibition catalog, Dr. Miller writes, "Be it in encaustic, steel, oil paint, or collage, the circle, dot, and sphere unite these Philadelphia-based artists in a single focus ..." As mounted with great sensitivity by Rusty Baker, the museum's executive director, the exhibition manages to showcase the individual achievements of the artists without losing sight of the over-arching theme. This is accomplished through a fluid and intelligent arrangement of space and careful lighting. As we move from one artist's area to another, we wonder what the next one will have to add to the discussion. Yet each artist and each work manages to say something new and exciting.

The two-dimensional works of David Foss, Tremain Smith, and Vincent Romaniello evoke three-dimensional spaces. In Foss's paintings, the circles suggest the primal forms of the amoeba, cell, and geode; they are biological and geological, natural entities with both past and potential. Here, the circle is origin and end. In her large, earth-colored collages, Smith creates what she calls "mappings of the unseen." Her circles, confined within grids, serve as windows that allow us to see the bits of metal and paper that she has ironed below surfaces of paint and wax. For her, the circle is the link between the viewer and the bottom layer of the canvas. Vincent Romaniello's oil paintings, with their soft colors and gentle forms, belie a sense of conflict: his circles and ghostlike curves lull us into a sense of tranquility, until we realize that we're not sure if we are looking at organic forms or abstract shapes, at flat surfaces or drawings for buildings or figures. We can't stop looking, and we'll never know for sure. We are, if you will, going around in circles.

In fact, the six artists represented in "Inner Circles," while expressing themselves, could be speaking for anyone. In so doing, they provide a fascinating glimpse into a universe of infinite possibilities. It is not surprising, given the paradoxical nature of the subject, that we are left both satisfied and longing for more.

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