BANGOR — A painter whose works illuminate the relationship between artist and model, a photographer who documents the human condition and an “unrepentant object maker” are the focus of fall exhibitions on display Oct. 14-Dec. 30 at the University of Maine Museum of Art, 40 Harlow St.
“Carlo Pittore: Studio Life” features an artist who lived in New York City and Italy, but it was Maine that he called home. After his move here in 1987, his studio in Bowdoinham became a hub of creative activity for artists who were both friends and students.
A passionate individual known for his outspoken nature and fervent activism, Pittore made a significant impact on the visual arts in the state. He died in 2005, leaving a vast quantity of paintings and works on paper that attest to his vigorous work ethic and a life spent in the studio.
While the artist played a central role in the mail art movement, which gained popularity in the 1970s and 1980s, this exhibition focuses on his lifelong practice of drawing and painting from the live model.
“Studio Life” invites the viewer to contemplate the relationship between artist and model. For Pittore, the rapport he had with his models allowed him to capture his subjects in their most intimate and vulnerable states.
Pittore’s depictions of nude subjects are unapologetically direct; the poses are candid and his models not idealized. The straightforward nature of these works draws connections to Lucian Freud, Alice Neel and Sylvia Sleigh.
A significant quantity of the artist’s creative output focuses on male subjects. These works provide a glimpse into Pittore’s life as a gay man, yet he never wanted to be labeled solely as a gay artist. The exhibition also features an array of portraits sensitively captured in ink and watercolor.
Pittore’s skillful use of line and daring application of color illuminate the diverse acquaintances and many friends he encountered throughout his vibrant life.
Throughout his 21-one year career, Boston-based photographer Dominic Chavez has traveled the globe documenting some of the most challenging of human conditions. Chavez demonstrates an exceptional ability to reveal elements of beauty amidst grim circumstances through his compassionate manner and technical expertise.
His work portrays the depth of the human spirit as it straddles photojournalism and fine art photography, shedding light on the complex issues encountered by people around the globe.
Chavez has recorded the effects of war in Colombia, Iraq, Afghanistan and Angola; the AIDS crisis facing the nations of Africa; and a variety of global health issues. His most recent project documents the lack of clean water in Sierra Leone and other locations throughout Africa.
“The best way to tell a story as an artist is to combine your craft with the passion in your heart,” he said. “It would be a crime to tell a story with only craft and no heart. It would also be a crime to tell a story with only heart and no craft.”
Chavez’s professional career includes positions at the Denver Post and, most recently, the Boston Globe. His work has been recognized nationally with many awards, including the Kaiser Family Foundation’s Media Fellowship, as well as the Pictures of the Year competition. Chavez has produced six books and his photographs have been shown internationally including exhibitions in Senegal, China and London.
The third exhibit is “Abe Ajay: Constructions.” Throughout his prolific career, Abe Ajay, 1919-1998, created a stunning assortment of wall-oriented relief sculptures. A self-proclaimed “unrepentant object maker,” Ajay often combined found objects, polyester resin, wood, canvas and wire into his mixed media constructions.
The artist’s work often drew associations to Louise Nevelson’s sculptures. The New York Times commented that Ajay’s work is “no less idiosyncratic than Nevelson’s” and that his sculpture is “as masculine and puritanical as hers is feminine and baroque.”
There is great precision and order in these constructions. Art historian Irving Sandler suggested that the works possessed a “thoughtfully conceived structure and the fine workmanship of Russian Constructivism.”
The artist employed earth tone colors ranging from rust-orange to green and would apply a hard-edged linear overlay in bold cerulean blue and yellow. With their meticulous structure, contrasting textures and repeated elements, Ajay’s compositions reveal an abstract and imagined architecture influenced by Spanish and Middle Eastern culture.
Abe Ajay’s works are represented in many prestigious collections, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York City, the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in Philadelphia, the Aldrich Museum of Contemporary Art in Ridgefield, Conn.; and the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington.
Admission to the museum is free in 2011 thanks to Machias Savings Bank in honor of Ted Leonard.