Frame by frame: Artists take divisive action

Andrei Molotiu, "Ruins."

“It’s comics really in the end,” said Warren Craghead III at the opening of Second Street Gallery’s group exhibition, “Impera et Divide,” which Craghead co-curated with Portuguese artist Pedro Moura. Describing the visual ground shared by the show’s six artists, Moura, too, resisted words like “sequential” as being too “pompous” for the work.

But if these are comics, they are unlike any comics you’ve previously seen. The principle guiding the exhibition is that all the artists, whether based in Belgium, Brazil, or Korea, segment their pieces into a series of frames. Several adapt a recognizable comics format combining words and pictures to relate a narrative, e.g. Fabio Zimbres and Andr© Lemos; others opt for a storyboard approach– Fr©d©ric Coch© and Ae-Rim Lee, for instance–shifting the viewer’s perspective frame by frame as a story unfolds.

One artist, Andrei Molotiu, abandons narrative altogether to explore how division affects abstract imagery. In the chromogenic print, “Cave,” Molotiu uses 20 frames to fragment a fluidly abstract work that transitions from watery blues at the top to translucent pinks and oranges at the bottom. The color shift is vertical, yet the frames prompt a left to right reading.

Each artist’s aesthetic approach also affects how the viewer reads the work. Fr©d©ric Cloch©’s fine-lined aquatints intentionally recall classical etchings, and his subjects evoke fairy tales and myth.

In the first of four spare frames extracted from Cloch©’s black and white “Ars Simia Naturae,”  we watch from a distance as a nude queen walks toward a small throne. The second frame moves closer, showing the queen seated and relaxed. The third pulls back to disclose figures wearing animal heads humbly filing toward the queen with offerings. In the fourth frame, Cloch© again pulls close to reveal a severed ape’s head on a platter, which the queen joyfully receives. The horrific climax is wonderfully at odds with the delicate refinement of the minimal imagery.

At the other end of the spectrum, Ae-Rim Lee creates super-saturated digital prints that incorporate eye-popping patterns and catapult the viewer into an apocalyptic world of the future. Her stylized figures maintain their positions frame to frame as she shifts perspective while they endure catastrophic events. The ingenuity of her attention to detail becomes more apparent the longer one looks.

Engaging and fun, “Impera et Divide” frees comics from the confines of pop culture, erasing the lines that have separated it from fine art.

The exhibition, “Impera Et Divide,” curated by Warren Craghead III and Pedro Moura and featuring the work of Fr©d©ric Cloch©, Ilan Manouach, Fabio Zimbres, Andrei Molotiu, Andr© Lemos, and Ae-Rim Lee, is on view through April 25 in the Dov© Gallery at Second Street Gallery. Books by the artists, as well as two special works created specifically for the show, are available for purchase. 115 Second St. SE. 977-7284.