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A Short Engagement

Art Review


Published May 24, 2006 at 4:00 a.m.


EXHIBIT:"Dialogue, Monologue," paintings, sculpture and monoprints by R.G. Solbert & Sumru Tekin. 215 College Artists' Cooperative, Burlington. Through

June 4.

ARTWORK:Untitled prints by Sumru Tekin

Sculptor R.G. Solbert and printmaker Sumru Tekin call their joint exhibit at 215 College Artists' Cooperative "Dialogue, Monologue." Though visually eloquent and conceptually engaging, the show isn't as wordy as that title suggests. On view through June 4, it does include a few punchy questions spelled out in Solbert's works. Tekin's prints, on the other hand, speak volumes with silence.

Solbert's "Questions Series" is a continuous monologue that prods viewers to consider their role in the world and, more specifically, in the so-called "War on Terror." English, Italian and French phrases appear in her mixed-media paintings and sculptures. Most texts are in the form of questions; others are pithy, terse statements.

A red, horizontal shadow box, for example, includes the French phrase "Allez-vous reflechir," loosely translated as "go reflect." The words are written in cursive on a long, curved piece of mica. Wires are tangled over shards of mica in the interior of the shadow box. In a companion blue box, also wall-hung and measuring 16 by 20 inches, the words "Allez-vous fuir" ("go flee") are spelled out in light-blue wire, and copper wires are crinkled overhead.

"Will you kill" is Solbert's most literal piece, a two-dimensional collage, framed and under glass. In the center is the silhouette of a dome -- the implication is a mosque -- with the title words spelled out in wire over it. Arranged, bunker-like on the left and right sides and overhead are a total of 72 photographs of soldiers killed in Iraq. These appear to have been cut from a magazine article about mounting war casualties.

Solbert's phrases are thought- provoking, even without translations. She teases viewers into trying to understand the sparse messages. Interestingly, her queries lack question marks. Among other phrases in her works are "Can you count," "Are you covert" and "Potete uccidere" ("Can you kill" in Italian).

Tekin's monoprints are sans text, yet her work might be considered the "dialogue" part of the exhibition; she appears to be in constant conversation with the materials of printmaking. Though black-and-white, Tekin's monoprints have a broad range of values and intensities.

Using litho crayons and other drawing materials, she draws meandering lines based on lengths of string, as if they were laid upon her inking plates. The compositions are made up of several sheets of paper, which are suspended with pins over the gallery walls. Thus the prints become multi-paneled, three-dimensional objects floating over the walls.

"Variation 2" is a group of four 12-by-16-inch prints with subtle repeated shapes delineated by stringy outlines. The four images are centered differently, giving each a distinct presence within the series. An untitled series of 15, 9-by-9-inch sheets, arranged in a grid, has wilder variations of line and value. Rich, dark swaths of carborundum printing contrast with finely etched lines, as well as razor-straight lines sewn in black thread. These threads transverse Tekin's prints both vertically and horizontally. Together the composition offers a dynamic array of lights and darks.

Tekin's largest pieces are untitled vertical diptychs with broad fields of black carborundum printing. Her grays are translucent, and split by lines of negative space. Tekin etches, prints and reworks plates, allowing successive states to develop their own personalities. She describes the process as "an exercise in random operation and chance." The imagery may be random, but Tekin, an adroit technician, seems to leave little to chance in the superb execution of her work.

All the artworks in this exhibit have in common lively lines and nonobjective abstraction. Tekin's dialogue with her medium and Solbert's soul-searching monologue also flow seamlessly together.