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Published: Wednesday, 1/24/2001

Handmade, manmade

BY REBEKAH SCOTT
BLADE STAFF WRITER

“Canvas vs. Steel,” a show of works by five area male artists, has the wide-open former warehouse chock-full of graffiti, cables, sharks, and Plexiglas - art-world versions of snakes and snails and puppy-dog tails.

“These are all local guys,” said associate gallery director Bennett McPeck. “We wanted to do something local after our first show, `The Philadelphians,' so people from around here know we're open to art by anybody, near or far.”

Bennett McPeck, associate director of Space 237, says he wants area residents to know "we're open to art by anybody, near or far." Bennett McPeck, associate director of Space 237, says he wants area residents to know "we're open to art by anybody, near or far."
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Word went out through the grapevine, he said, and artists and sculptors were gathered from Ann Arbor, Mich.; Detroit, Toledo, and Bowling Green. The resulting show is a mixed bag, a frat house of ideas, techniques, and skill levels.

Top of the heap is sculptor Gregory Noviski, a Whitehouse native trained at the University of Cincinnati. Mr. Noviski's work employs the strong lines of an architect's design drawings, but in 3-D steel and wood. They're all pulleys, cables, sails, sanded fiber glass, a sort of surfboard-cum-scale-model. Lifeboat Study, an old-fashioned window sash reconfigured as a steel sculpture, seems to fly off the wall. And then, for something completely different, he has made three bronzes called Mechartilagenous. They're fishy forms, made of gears, files, and machine parts welded together and hung from the ceiling, primitive and graceful as sharks.

On the walls surrounding Noviski's works are bizarre twisted-metal and wood sculptures by Stefan Rittenbery, a Swanton native who grew into a Detroit automotive designer. Perhaps in contrast to the utter practicality of his daytime work, this man's art is skewed, just barely balanced, with twisted ceramic faces, delicately worked hardwood, and curves of chrome and steel. It's an abstracted sword-and-sorcery style, heavy–metal streamlines dear to the hearts of Alien movie fans. Mr. Rittenbery's workmanship is masterful. We can rest assured these industrial-strength sculptures will outlast all of us.

Jason Nickel is another worker in three dimensions, but he prefers wood and Plexiglas, worked and painted into architectural forms. Maybe it's the display he gets at Space 237 - his arches and curves are propped along the exposed-brick walls. Maybe it's the shallow wooden frames he covers with painted Plexiglas, playing with the opaque/transparent material. But this viewer got the feeling these are works in progress, an idea not quite there yet. The frames aren't quite deep enough, or maybe they just need to escape the wall altogether, and dance out into the room.

Mr. Nickel is a product of “reverse brain-drain,” according to Mr. McPeck. He's a New Yorker with a Master of Fine Arts degree and several prizes under his belt. Now a Toledo resident, Mr. Nickel was comes here via Columbus College of Art and Design.

Brian Tubbs is an Ann Arbor painter with New York connections - he spends his summers living in his van at a Manhattan park, painting the people and scenes he finds there. His big, poster-ish plywood paintings are all urban grit and graffiti, bold lines and type and dulled-down colors. He also has brought along a collection of tabletop dragons and angels, made from nuts, bolts, and pipes. This is wide-open, fun art, inventive and clever.

Defiance native Eric Small rounds out the show with representational paintings sure to please a crowd. He loves stippling, a pen-and-ink technique art students use to learn light-to-dark shading. He's good at it. As such, his stipple drawings are cut and pasted into his larger paintings, replete with a Toledo scene or two. His works have appeared in area coffee shops. This is Small's “first real gallery experience,” the proprietor said. Still, his showing has the feel of a student thesis about it.

"Canvas Vs. Steel" will remain on show at Space 237 through Feb. 24. The gallery is at 237 North Michigan St. It is open noon to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.



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