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Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2012

Abstraction Alights on Canvas: Eric Aho

New England's Aho Returns to Milwaukee

By Peggy Sue
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 ERIC AHO: ABSTRACTION ALIGHTS ON CANVAS

First, one defines Abstract Expression as: An artist's liberty to convey attitudes and emotions through non traditional and usually non representational means. Then one means to define alight: to illuminate or set on fire. For art enthusiasts who have difficulty appreciating abstract paintings or abstract expressionism to be exact, the definition of these two words transforms the current exhibition at Tory Folliard Gallery: “Eric Aho: New Paintings.” Renowned East Coast artist Aho arrives in Milwaukee with his positively dynamic abstract images on display from October 18 through November 24. 

Over the past five years, Aho has indeed transformed his interpretation of light and shadow observed on his New England landscapes. The artist's courageous and constantly expressive journey began when Aho experimented with merging memory of place into an exact moment in time, a physical moment he had experienced or was experiencing. In his last exhibition at Folliard Gallery, Milwaukee only glimpsed a foreshadowing of this artistic road trip. Aho’s familiar buildings, barns and ice houses observed on his home terrain still captivate the viewer, even in this exhibition. His seductive use of brush strokes that change direction on his canvases subtly interprets architectural form and daylight. 

However, Aho’s Nocturne Series mesmerize with magical and mystical blues, deep in the color spectrum, while streaked with uninhibited brushstrokes in a zig-zag pattern over the expanse of the particular canvas. These midnight blues illuminate the salmon pink and neon yellow flecks that represent fireflies and stars in Aho’s imaginative nightscapes. 

Two or three monumental paintings in the exhibit transfix the viewer. One titled Beach, an 80 inches by 62 inches oil on linen, alights with sparks of aquamarine blue, Bermuda blue, sand and stone beige combined with a twilight pink that evokes every moment spent at a beach during sunrise through sunset. 

Another monumental diptych titled Grouse loosely remembers Aho’s story of his walk in the woods with a friend. A very curious and inquisitive grouse follows the two hiking buddies as they explore the woods. A blaze of white paint appearing as sheer light dominates the left of the canvas while the right presents the interplay of the woods. Rich and thick sculptural impasto paint delineates forest markings while deep scrawls scar the canvas. So the viewer transcends Aho’s convergence of memory and moment into their own, a personal, poetic transfiguration.

Hayfield represents another familiar New England vista, up close in the foreground while envisioning the hills and pastures behind. The pale straw hues meld with vibrant yellows and grays, which wind into a far off perspective, to invite the viewer around a bend in this distinctive landscape radiating with pervasive energy.


Viewers might want to internalize Aho’s paintings to fully appreciate his inspirational impact, along with his painting technique. His landscapes underscore an evocative and sculptural dimensionality acquired through fluid brushstokes and spontaneity in application, wildly energizing. This new work bewitches the viewer into trading literal representation for experiential imagination. On Aho’s canvases, paint collides in explosive strokes of memory and physicality so the viewer palpably connects to a surprising emotional response. Aho has indeed arrived to a fascinating place where he artistically set out to go. Not a fan of abstraction? Visit Folliard Gallery to expand one’s understanding of this genre through Aho’s dynamic exhibition that on viewing could set the human spirit aglow.

 

Tory Folliard Gallery presents “Eric Aho; New Paintings” October 18 through November 24. Aho appears at the artist’s reception on Thursday, October 18 beginning at 5:00 p.m. For more information or a view of the exhibition, please visit. www.toryfolliard.com     

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