Wild west show: Wolpa rocks The Garage

Andy Wolpa, "Canyon Vista."
Andy Wolpa, "Canyon Vista."
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In the last few years, I’ve noticed an upsurge in what I call “stream-of-consciousness art.” Mixing words and images– sometimes drawn, sometimes painted, other times pasted-in– the pieces often include additional commentary and reflection. Text is often handwritten, giving the impression of a diary or an annotated sketchbook. The overall aesthetic conceit is an in-the-moment, rough-edged spontaneity.

A chief practitioner of stream-of-consciousness art is Maira Kalman, whose recent C’ville-centric New York Times piece, “And the Pursuit of Happiness: Times Wastes Too Fast,” celebrated Thomas Jefferson and Monticello. Another artist who embraces this intentionally unrefined approach is Adam Wolpa, whose exhibition, “Quemado,” is currently on view at The Garage,

All but two of the 12 works resulted from the Calvin College art prof’s taking a group of students on a tour of art sites in the West. A University of Virginia, alumnus, Wolpa became enamored with the geology of the region, leading to drawings and mixed-media pieces conveying a fascination with rock formation and topographical features.

“Canyon Vista,” for example, offers a color-rich collage of text-book-style photographs of crystals and geodes combined with the rugged features of a western landscape (including an upside-down image of Devil’s Tower). Affixed to its frame is a cryptic hand-lettered caption, reading, “This picture is trying to keep you out. It is a denial based in the great double negative in Nevada.”

Wolpa is wildly innovative in his production methods. For instance, to change the quality of marks on a page, he sometimes spills water on his writings and drawings, leaving smudgy dried puddles as elements of the compositions. A regular producer of zines, Wolpa also uses black-and-white photocopying as a form of printmaking.

Two pieces, both entitled “Powwow #5,” offer related compositions involving side-by-side pages. In both cases, writing dominates the left page and image, the right, although there is overlap. The first piece presents a colorful collage with penned writing, much of it crossed-out, on yellow on the left and a sweep of a cutout image on the right. Similar but different, the second is a Xeroxed piece that reproduces elements of the first “Powow #5” amid new bits of visual and written information.

The exhibition also features a soundtrack of crunching footsteps and occasional coughs emanating from a speaker set atop a wooden box emblazoned “Danger Venom.” These ambient theatrics enhance the sense of immediacy Wolpa creates with his carefully considered stream-of-consciousness work.

Adam Wolpa’s exhibition, “Quemado,” is on view through the end of July at The Garage. The gallery is open Fridays, 12-2pm, but appointments to see the work may also be arranged by calling 985-630-1466. N. 1st St. (across from Lee Park).