Light and its Absence

Joseph Pentheroudakis, Flying Rat and Mannequin, 2017. Digital photograph printed on Hahnemuehle Fine Art Pearl.

Joseph Pentheroudakis at Shift Gallery through July 29, 2017

Written by Stephanie Hargrave / Edited by Cynthia Hibbard

When I first encountered Joseph Pentheroudakis’s work, I was visiting an open house at Inscape – the former INS building renovated into artist studios. I walked into a small bright room filled with drawings composed of meticulously repeated marks. They were clean, and the clarity and order of them made me feel calm.

In Pentheroudakis’s new show at Shift Gallery, Seeing the Light: Prints & Photographs, the same clean and clear feeling arises, only this time there is the absence of light too. He has gone back to mediums he’s worked with in the past, but his aesthetic remains the same. As he states, “pattern and arrangement, light and its absence, shapes and their shadows all interact and bounce off each other.” Pentheroudakis is seasoned at art making, and his years of experience feed into these images that tell stories that are stark, subtle, abstract, or familiar.

Most the works in the show are black and white giclée prints on Hahnemuehle Fine Art Pearl paper, each in an edition of 5. Three are simply patterns entitled Four by Four (Dots, X and Heart). Those relate most closely to his earlier drawings I had seen. There are also three dust grain photogravures with chine collé (editions of 12), printed by master printmaker Sheila Coppola, that feel more architectural. Several other works also have an architectural quality, for example Stool (a) and Stool (b). Even Beach Scene feels like a hill that climbs steeply toward what seems to be a squarish edifice. In actuality, Pentheroudakis photographed barnacles up close with a moody sky behind what reads as a building. In several works shadow plays a large part, as with Flying Rat and Mannequin (above) and Shower, the first telling an almost whimsical story, the second stating a shape and restating it, elongated, in its repetition. Still Life with Glass feels painterly, sans color and rich with texture.

For all the variety in subject matter, the show is cohesive and balanced, and compels you to view each piece again and again as you make your way around the room. Each visit reveals a little more richness, crispness, or subtlety. The allure lies in how you decide to view them. Squint and some become drawings, paintings, or everyday objects made abstract in the way the image is cropped, or the angle it was shot. They make a great group, but are also strong standing alone. The most appealing piece for me is the photogravure entitled A Thousand Words. Stacks of what appear to be old books and papers in a dusty studio look like they are part of a project in progress – is it boatmaking? Or perhaps a study on how to construct a sail? The warm tint of the paper interacting with the ink makes you feel like you can smell both the pages and the dusty canvas of the room. In fact, many of the pieces, at least for this viewer, have a “crunch” you can nearly hear, a coolness you can feel or a scent – my slight synesthesia activating perhaps – but it does seem like the overlapping of senses that comes with viewing compelling art.

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