By Laura Roberts
After a year of renovation, the Housatonic Museum of Art re-opened its doors September 5th with a celebration of geometric abstraction. The exhibit on view, Close to the Line: Mari Rantanen and Kirsten Reynolds, pairs brightly painted canvasses and sculptural installations, creating a harmonious environment of form, pattern, precision and play.
In the newly restored Burt Chernow Galleries, guest curator Barbara O’Brien paired the artists together for the first time. Rantanen’s large-scale paintings of boldly colored geometric shape and exact patterned line envelop the viewer, while Reynolds’ two large architectural installations constructed with open grids, dramatic curves and a playful spirit invite the viewer to physically engage with the structures.
The construction of Reynolds’ performative pieces, Switchback and post, invite the viewer to step through the work for an interactive experience, all the while taking in the structures’ levels of imbalance and Rantanen’s surrounding work.
“Our pieces stand on their own and talk to each other; it’s a conversation” said Rantanen. “Architecture has been inspiring for me, when I paint I’m thinking of the architecture in a different way. Our work is the perfect pair.”
For this show, Rantanen created a new, enormous triptych, Aesthetic Ecstasy and Uncertain Universe (2019). Measuring some six feet high and ten feet wide, the piece fills one’s peripheral vision with the Finnish artist’s characteristic pallette of vivid hues, patterned line and optimism.
“There’s this whimsical precision to this exhibit,” said Christine Jewel, Director of Westport Continuing Education. “It presents an interesting juxtaposition because the work is so clean and carefully planned, yet extremely playful; the colors are so bold, yet very soothing to view."
“With the precision of geometric abstraction, this exhibit is a beautiful counterpoint to the anxious times we’re living in,” said Robbin Zella, Director of the Housatonic Museum of Art. “That’s what art is, sometimes it confronts issues, and sometimes it’s an escape. This show is a joyful respite.”
The show marks the grand re-opening of the museum, which has been closed since August of last year. At that time, the walls and floors of the museum’s Burt Chernow Gallery suffered water damage when the sprinkler system activated in response to an overheated computer on the floor above. Fortunately, the museum’s collection did not experience any damage.
“We are thrilled to have the museum’s gallery open again,” said Dr. Paul Broadie, President of Housatonic Community College. “The changing exhibitions add to the vibrancy of our campus and provide our region with valuable opportunities for cultural exploration and enrichment.”
The exhibition will remain on view through October 12, 2019 and is located in the Burt Chernow Galleries in Lafayette Hall on the Housatonic Community College Campus, 900 Lafayette Blvd, Bridgeport. Visiting is free and open to the public. Gallery hours are Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., Thursday evenings until 7 p.m. and Saturdays, 9 a.m. until 3 p.m. For additional information, visit www.HousatonicMuseum.org or call 203-332-5052.
Photo credit: Thomas Brenner
The Housatonic Museum of Art re-opened with an exhibit celebrating geometric abstraction: Close to the Line: Mari Rantanen and Kirsten Reynolds, on view through October 12.
Photo above: Artists Mari Rantanen and Kirsten Reynolds.