January 31st to March 3rd
an exhibition featuring the works of Fred Cole and Steven Epstein
Hamilton Street Gallery is proud to present “Road Work”, a new exhibition featuring sculptor, Fred Cole and painter, Steven Epstein. At first glance, both artists appear at very different ends of the spectrum. Steven’s expressive acrylic paintings combine realistic and abstract imagery, depicting urban/suburban activities of people doing everyday things, mostly at night. Fred’s interests lie in repurposing found objects, both functional and non functional, and joining elements to form imaginative assemblages, that are sometimes whimsical in nature.
Yet, upon closer examination, their work has much more in common than meets the eye. Most obvious, is that they both get their inspiration for subject matter from the street, but there is also the reference of time. Steven’s work is a shadowy reflection of the here and now. His paintings possess an intense hidden undercurrent that reveals a mysterious neon world that is strange yet familiar, where people, stores, traffic — anything connected to the street, become totally immersed. Fred, on the other hand, provides a glimpse back to another time and place, with a wealth of findings of the old, chipped and discarded — things like rusted machine parts and broken toys that he has unearthed from the street. Most of these objects are obsolete and no longer needed. They have a sadness about them. Their usefulness has faded away. By combining these bygone materials with his playful, ironic humor, Fred creates bizarre, transformative pieces with new purpose. Interestingly, many of the people in Steven’s paintings, emit a particular loneliness also. They appear as if obscure apparitions, repeatedly living out their lives within boundaries of dark isolation.
Notably, both artists have a common bond — a social/political consciousness in sharing their interest and concern for the human condition. Within that concern exists a need to confront reality and seek out the truth, which evidently is transferred into their art. There is nothing that more powerfully exemplifies the truth than the concept of light. Both Fred and Steven share in the application of light in their work. Fred’s sculptures are often electrified and lit to enhance their beauty and effectiveness. Steven creates various sources of artificial light, such as street lamps and car headlights, so to show the distorted shadows, reflections and flashes of color, necessary for the mysterious glow in his night scenes. Although the creative significance of light is clearly apparent, it is the high voltage that lies unseen underneath, searching, focusing, and revealing that give these artworks their spirit and energy. For artists like Steven Epstein and Fred Cole everything remains in the dark, waiting to be uncovered until they turn on the light.
Fred Cole -“On Staten Island” street lamp lens found on comer on S.I., large springs found near Raritan River
Fred Cole -“Striped Lamp with Creature Beneath the Deep” metal container with lenses, street lamp, sponge ball
I paint what I see, feel or imagine. Often trying to combine all options. On my long drives home at night going North up Route 1 I gradually decompress from the workday frustrations and pressures, letting go, feeling them dissolve into the colors of night. The neon lights against the dark streets, the penumbra of the traffic lights, the darkened geometries and odd shadows from the artificial light on the closed strip mall buildings I pass. The reflections on a wet night. The roadscape becomes a world with another dimension; boundaries dissolving between the real and the abstract, the solid and the suggested. I try and put some of that magic in my paintings. Atmosphere, mystery, mood, possibility. My paintings are places or events I choose to dwell in for awhile.I often use bad digital photos as a reference or map that helps me get to that place. I They are often a series of contradictory impulses leading to an indefinite conclusion rather than an ideal or vision which is frustratingly out of reach. I like to use heightened impressions of ordinary surroundings finding atmosphere and mood in the commonplace. I work mostly in acrylics, either on canvas or hardboard. When I want to get “physical” with a painting, have my strokes and scrapings and marks add to the texture of the image or build thick areas of paint I like to use hardboard. My influences start with Modern Art. Impressionism and after. Expressionism and film noir. Social Realism. The masters of the horror and absurdity of the 20th century; Picasso and Bacon. The spiritual isolation of Hopper and Van Gogh. Jazz, for it’s moods without words; melodies and improvisations. The Blues for the ecstasy of expressing the pain of existence in an often indifferent world that just keeps going on.
Fred Cole Statement
It is with a great deal of excitement that I have been paired with Steven Epstein to exhibit our artwork in the “Road Work” show at the Hamilton Street Gallery. As I write this statement, the show has yet to be installed so it is with a great sense of anticipation and mystery that I anticipate my first glance as I walk through the gallery doors.
Joan Sonnenfeld and Brian McCormack at Hamilton Street have chosen to exhibit Steve’s work with mine because of our mutual interest in the streets. Steven depicts them through his paintings. I scour them for sculptural components. Streets are one of the vital connections of our lives. They encompass the culture at large through the various places with which they bring us, and the various dynamics we encounter on them. I am aware that my visual landscape has always been enhanced by movement through my immediate environment as I try and make sense of just what is going on. While traversing those same streets, they also provide me with much of the material I use in creating images.
Works of mine shown in this exhibition such as “Cleveland Avenue Bus,” “On Staten Island” “Adam and Steve,” “Striped Lamp with Creature Beneath the Deep,” “405A Cleveland Avenue,” and “18 East” have as their main components and main inspiration, material found on the streets in the New York/New Jersey metropolitan area. The process of recycling found objects for artistic purposes is an old one. Those who work in such a medium find that the material often drives the direction of the piece, or the material is repurposed to meet the expressive needs of the artist.
My interest in assemblage pieces is many-fold: to visually capture attention and imagination; to stimulate thought pertaining to social and political dynamics; to make people smile and maybe laugh; to remind us who and where we think we are, and to bring out the iconic nature of many of the materials I use.
I find my main attraction with such materials is to use their illuminating colors and at times add electricity to brighten and highlight my work. It is interesting to have my work juxtaposed with the work of Steven Epstein. Steven creates images of streets though his paintings, often using the night to make us further explore our environment and find out for ourselves what lies just a little further beyond what we first see. It is this contrast concerning our uses of the streets that I will be most interested in seeing during my first glance of this show.
I want to thank Joan and Brian for running the Hamilton Street Gallery for so many of us who exhibit here. This is my gallery of choice among all the places I exhibit. Thanks also J. and B. for the confidence you have shown to partner me with Steven Epstein in this exhibition. And thanks Steven for sharing this space where you are exhibiting the work you so forcefully create from your perceptions and pallet.