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Wednesday, Sept. 26, 2012

Carol Curley, Francis Ford at Dominion Gallery

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As the Dominion Gallery in Riverwest approaches its first anniversary, it introduces a new artist to its regular roster with the current exhibition “The Carol Show,” featuring pastel drawings by Carol Curley and photographs by Francis Ford.

Curley handles pastels with a bold and edgy vision and incorporates mixed-media elements with wit and an eye for dreamy glamour. Wire, thread and shimmering gold leaf make their way into her drawings. As pastels, they retain the soft, pliable surface quality commonly seen in this medium, creating pools of color ranging in opacity from impenetrably dense to airily delicate puffs of color. Curley is not hesitant to go in with gestural lines, articulating contours around a figure or filling out the inner working of hands through a tangle of expressive movement.

The figure is the central focus. Most images are of women, but other characters come into being with heads and shoulders that perhaps originate in life but become the stuff of dreams. In goat couture a goat is dressed nattily in a suit, like Pan sporting Jean-Paul Gaultier and rocking it well. Women are drawn with the aura of silver screen legends à la Bette Davis, especially in i'd kiss you darling but i just washed my hair, elegant in angularity, undeniably feminine with edges of mystery.

Lest one get the impression that Curley’s pictures are consistently dark with drama, there are moments of levity and even refreshing sarcasm, particularly in the details collaged into the drawings. because it's shiny, that's why is another glamorous figure, one that seems drawn from fashion plates circa 1986 due to the sharp tailoring of a bright red jacket. A gold foil circle is attached like a badge, and with a closer look it proclaims: "Now premiering our sexiest lingerie ever!" A little scrap of advertising, it cheekily suggests that which is unseen and plays to the way we are acclimated to advertising mixed with sensual suggestion.

The exhibition is promoted as “The Carol Show,” but a selection of photographs by renowned Milwaukee photographer Francis Ford rounds out the show. His large-scale prints are like excerpts from a photo booth, where a dollar or two gets a series of quick-fire pictures. These images have that effect, but make no mistake: They are far more clever and beautifully executed. This is an odd beauty, as a woman's face is twisted and contorted in expressions of fun. The pictures are bright and pristine, and they freeze the figure like portrait studies of ephemeral moments. During the exhibition opening, these photographs—and walls, and gallery-goers—were decorated with fake mustaches. It is an optional addition, but one that adds to the fashion and devil-may-care pleasure of “The Carol Show.”

"The Carol Show” continues through the Riverwest ArtWalk, Oct. 7. The gallery is located at 804 E. Wright St.
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