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Dark Poets

Thursday, January 31 through Sunday, March 9 in Decker Gallery

Posted 01.09.08 by MICA Media Relations

Everything S(he) Preceived

Dark Poets, presented at the Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA), examines the ability of artists to shed light on human suffering through the exploration of their own inner demons. Artists who engage the dark side of life as subject-death, insanity, cruelty, war, and angst-have been ubiquitous throughout art history. In Dark Poets, six contemporary artists continue in this tradition, motivated by personal history, inner demons, or simply a strong sense of empathy. Like poets, these artists make new connections, destabilizing and expanding conventional ways of knowing. Through imagination and craft, they poignantly, sharply, and sometime humorously reinvent the dark side of life. Dark Poets will be on view from Thursday, January 31 through Sunday, March 9 in Decker Gallery in the Fox Building located at 1303 Mount Royal Avenue. A panel discussion with the artists takes place on Thursday, January 31, 3-5 p.m. in Brown Center's room 320, followed by an opening reception from 5-7 p.m.

Dark Poets presents artists for whom the common denominator is the sense of inner necessity that has driven their work from the earliest stages. External ambition, current trends, and sometimes even the visual and formal aspects of the images seem secondary to their investigation and interpretation of life experience. Most have an interest in writing, either within the images or as a parallel, correlative activity. Although a few of these artists have achieved national, even international attention, others have worked reclusively over decades with virtually no audience.

Each artist's temperament and approach is unique-from the cool introspection of James Barth to the frenetic angst of Claudia Ryan; from Charlotte Schulz's exquisite probing to Roger Palmer's raw black humor; and from Karen Yasinsky's endearing clunkiness to Elizabeth Huey's savvy historical fiction. This exhibition includes animated films, paintings, and works on paper. Studies, writing excerpts, and other research materials offer an intimate view of each artist's process.

All exhibitions and receptions at MICA are free and open to the public. Gallery hours are Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. and Sunday from noon-5 p.m. For more information, visit www.mica.edu or call 410-225-2300.

MICA's exhibitions and public programs receive generous support from the Robert and Jane Meyerhoff Special Programs Endowment; The Nuckolls Fund for Lighting Education, Inc.; the Amalie Rothschild '34 Residency Program Endowment; The Rouse Company Endowment; the Maryland State Arts Council, an agency dedicated to cultivating a vibrant cultural community where the arts thrive; and the generous contributors to MICA's Annual Fund.


James Barth was a performance artist and writer during the 1970s, dancing with Yvonne Rainer and the Lucinda Childs Dance Company as well as directing and performing in his own projects and writing screenplays. In recent years, he has retreated to rural Pennsylvania where he has been working very privately and introspectively. His large photo based digital images often unite this wooded landscape with now distant and painful childhood memories, or with internal narratives and self reflective dialogs. Strongly grounded in his post-minimalist and performance history, he breaks down his images, then enlarges and reconstructs them in rigorous grid structures. Very short stories or reflections, often excerpts from texts he wrote over 30 years ago, are inserted into this, sometimes only one letter to each section, slowing down and distancing the viewer from their emotional impact. Barth has recently shown his work at Tricia Collins Contemporary Art in NYC, and at the Alliance Gallery in Narrowsburg, New York. www.james-barth-art.com

Elizabeth Huey's expansive panoramic paintings conjure the conflicted, sometimes malevolent underside of mental hospitals, religious organizations and alternative communities. Patients huddle in groups, exposed pairs exchange intimate caresses, and celestial beings hover as lone individuals are subjected to aggressive therapies that ravage the body in an effort to preserve the mind. Employing a disjunctive pictorial strategy, combining actual events and allegorical representation, Huey constructs complexly rendered works of historical fiction. After receiving a degree in psychology from George Washington University, Huey completed an MFA at Yale in 2002. Since then, she has been awarded a McGregor Fellowship and a Johns Hopkins University Travel Fellowship and residencies at Weir Farm and CAC in North Adams, Massachusetts. Recently, she had solo exhibitions at Quality Pictures in Portland, Oregon and Byron Cohen in Kansas City, Missouri and was featured in the 2007 Phantasmania exhibition at the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art. www.elizabethhuey.com

For almost 40 years, Roger Clay Palmer has worked, often reclusively, on poetry, paintings, installations, and primarily, a large body of drawings. Ruthless black humor blends with gentle compassion in a world where animals and objects often mimic and reflect us. Growing up on a ranch in Florida listening to family members tell stories, his work reflects his love of Southern oral tradition. His experiences as a conscientious objector in the army during the Vietnam War altered his view of life. Six weeks in Japan in 1985 also deeply affected his work; as with Japanese haiga and Zenga, words are an indispensable component of his brush and wash or ink drawings. Palmer has self published several books, one of which is archived in Franklin Furnace, has shown throughout the southeast at such places as DiverseWorks in Houston, Nexus in Atlanta, Tampa Museum of Art and Polk Museum in Lakeland, Florida and has an installation in the permanent collection of Ringling Museum of Art in Sarasota, Florida. www.rogerclaypalmer.com

Claudia Ryan, after receiving her certificate of fine art at California Institute of the Arts in the late-1980s, went into hermetic seclusion, working in nursing to support herself. She drew and painted obsessively, fueled by loneliness, rage, and her experiences dealing with patients. In 2000, she returned to school, recently getting her MFA at the University of South Florida. Ryan's work mimics, or occasionally is, the act of writing, a kind of frenetic mark making. With pastels or other markers, she builds massive surfaces over time- erasing, scratching, remarking. These traces of action, invoking or sometimes describing nightmarish, psychologically intense subject matter, give the impression of expunging private demons while passionately celebrating life. Additionally, Ryan is a poet. Her poems recently published in Diagram and Right Hand Pointing. In 2007, she was set designer and collaborating artist for Trisha Brown's Set Reset/Reset in Tampa, Florida. www.claytongalleries.net

In her intricate charcoal drawings, Charlotte Schulz constructs a melancholic world, illuminated by foreboding light and weather. Informed by extensive reading-most recently, Gilles Deleuze's interpretation of Leibniz in THE FOLD and an encyclopedic collection of images of cities, houses, and events-she gradually evolves her narratives as she works, incorporating and transforming sad or haunting private memories and larger world events, such as 9/11 or the assassination of Martin Luther King. Architectural vignettes are interwoven into expansive, enfolded spaces, sometimes the paper is actually folded, inspired by the spatial strategies of Chinese landscape painting. Recurring objects-beds, telescopes, sleds, airplanes, and tents-seem to take on metaphorical significance. Short prose poems accompany the images. A former Skowhegan Fellow and recent recipient of a Pollock-Krasner Grant, Aljira Emerging Arts Grant, and New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship, she has exhibited frequently in New York and Florida and is currently having a solo show at the Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum in Connecticut. www.charlotteschulz.com

Karen Yasinsky conjures a deceptively benign domestic world with sinister sexual and interpersonal undercurrents. After exploring cultural nostalgia and childhood memories through painting and drawing for many years, her work took a turn in the late 1990s when she began to also make stop action animation films using handmade clay figures. The excruciatingly slow process involved allowed her to develop her characters subliminally, through identification with their slow, awkward movements. Mute, sweetly smiling, they seem suspended in motiveless, repetitive and uncomfortable states of being, the mood enhanced by original scores and subtle use of dissociated sounds interspersed with silence. Yasinsky recently had a solo show at Mireille Mostler Ltd. in New York based on Jean Vigo's 1934 classic, L'Atalante, in which she introduced animated drawing. A 2002 Guggenheim recipient, she has shown in over 50 international film festivals and group exhibitions. In 2007, she had a solo exhibition at the Wexner Center in Columbus, Ohio and was a finalist for the Janet and Walter Sondheim Prize. www.mireillemoslerltd.com


Mernet Larsen is professor emeritus of painting at University of South Florida, where she taught for 35 years, receiving the University's highest distinctions for teaching. She has had over 20 solo exhibitions, including a solo show at the New York Studio School in 2005 and a 25 year retrospective at the Deland (FL) Museum of Art in 1992. Her paintings have been included in over 70 group exhibitions including the American Academy of Arts and Letters Annual Purchase Exhibition in New York, Transitory Patterns at the National Museum of Women in the Arts, Painting Abstraction II at the New York Studio School, and Made in Florida, which traveled internationally. Her work is in the permanent collections of the Ringling Museum of Art, Tampa Museum of Art, Oklahoma Museum of Art, and numerous other public and private collections. www.mernetlarsen.com

Founded in 1826, Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) is the oldest continuously degree-granting college of art and design in the nation. The College enrolls nearly 3,500 undergraduate, graduate and continuing studies students from 49 states and 52 countries in fine arts, design, electronic media, art education, liberal arts, and professional studies degree and non-credit programs. With art and design programs ranked in the top ten by U.S. News and World Report, MICA is pioneering interdisciplinary approaches to innovation, research, and community and social engagement. Alumni and programming reach around the globe, even as MICA remains a cultural cornerstone in the Baltimore/Washington region, hosting hundreds of exhibitions and events annually by students, faculty and other established artists.