Artspeak Radio with Habitat Contemporary

Artspeak Radio, Wednesday, March 23, 2022, noon – 1pm CST, 90.1fm KKFI Kansas City Community Radio, streaming live audio

Producer/host Maria Vasquez Boyd talks with gallery director/curator Habitat Contemporary Robb Gann and artists Jill Downen, Char Schwall, and Fred Trease.

ROBB GANN-As owner and Director of Habitat Contemporary I work with many talented artists. Habitat Contemporary is a commercial art gallery with the objective of exhibiting new talent every six weeks. I have developed years of exhibition skills curating works by mid-career artists.

Serving as the Associate Director of Studios Inc, allowed many established ties within the arts community. Working as purchasing consultant and artist liaison helped to place many works in private and corporate collections. I have curated regional and international traveling exhibitions. Favorable exhibition reviews, by noted art critics, have found placement in national and global publications. An honors graduate from UMKC, I earned a bachelor of arts degree in Art History, with a focus on museum studies. Using my knowledge and experience, I will help to find the perfect work for any collector.
Habitat Contemporary 2012 Baltimore, KCMO

Habitat Contemporary
March 4th-April 15th, 2022
Char Schwall and Jill Downen

FLUID is an exhibition that brings together the work of artists Char Schwall and Jill Downen, for a guest show at Habitat Contemporary. Presenting the work of the two artists, who have been married for 30 years, in conversation with one another; the exhibition challenges visitors to reconsider the traditional gender binary through abstract imagery, materials, and viewer-participation.
FLUID calls for almost everything about the relationship between the masculine and the feminine to be reinvented and/or rebuilt, as inspired by philosopher Luce Irigaray. Rather than a vertical hierarchy, Irigaray articulates the need for a horizontal exchange between two people that produces new and unforeseen possibilities; how to listen to the other, to open oneself, horizontally to the other’s sense. She offers a way of relating in which each individual person remains autonomous and protected, in a way that allows sharing to occur.

Char Schwall’s creative practice is an exploration of two material languages, paint and textiles, as well as the gender implications of different media and materials. Is sewing a feminine art, or not? Do materials have a culturally implied gender, or not? Her work investigates concepts of surface, gendered space, fluidity, and overall softness within an aesthetic trajectory of openness. Her sewn fabric appliqué pieces reference garments and her gender transformation; imagery of the folds of dresses echo the unfolding and malleability of subjectivity. Schwall’s paintings explore the complex and sometimes controversial, relationship between the feminine and the fluid. In the paintings, organic forms break open, spill forward, and emerge from either the center or the outside edge of the picture plane. In this sense, the work interrogates and critiques modernist structures through the point of view of water. Shapes and patterns break free and/or split apart; fold inward and/or wrap around; and open in ways that evoke the growth or birth process. There is interaction of various parts, yet emptiness remains central to the picture plane of each canvas. The work seeks to create places of openness, of a relation to the other; a generative place where birth and rebirth can continuously prevail.

Jill Downen’s art is concerns the symbiotic relationship between the human body and architecture, where the exchanging forces and tensions of construction, destruction, and restoration emerge as thematic possibilities. Their new work for FLUID explores the idea of binary-pull, defined by Downen as a linear tension between two points, which is released to reveal unexpected forces, rendering them visible. Downen’s drawings were generated by pulling a plumb line (which is covered in blue chalk) taught and then snap-releasing it onto a plaster surface. This action transforms the once straight chalk line into marks on the plaster surface that veer away from rigidity to bend, curl and twist. In this sense, the works break the static binary of the grid and embody the underlying energies of the non-binary. Snap to Queer is an interactive artwork that invites visitors to co-create a large wall drawing through a collaborative experience. Gallery visitors are invited to leave their mark by snapping a chalk line directly onto the wall with a plumb-line string. The experimental work explores the actions of many to co-create an image that evolves throughout the duration of the exhibition.

Char Schwall lives in Kansas City where she maintains her studio; during the past year, she began a gender transition. Her work has been exhibited in solo and group exhibitions nationally and internationally, including New York, St. Louis, Kansas City, Chicago, and Asuncion, Paraguay. As an early childhood educator, Schwall has extensively studied the educational system in the municipality of Reggio-Emilia, Italy, and co-edited and co-authored the book, In the Spirit of the Studio: Learning from the Atelier of Reggio Emilia. She is also the pedagogical coordinator for The St. Michael School of Clayton. She holds a BFA from the Kansas City Art Institute, and an MFA from Washington University in St. Louis. During the COVID-19 crisis, Schwall sewed masks as a volunteer for KC Helps and The Sewing Labs in Kansas City. She is represented by Bruno David Gallery in St. Louis.

Jill Downen is the recipient of numerous awards including the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship, Stone and DeGuire Contemporary Art Award, and Charlotte Street Foundation Visual Artists Award. Residencies include MASS MoCA, MacDowell Colony National Endowment for the Arts residency, Proyecto áce, and Cité International des Arts residency in Paris. Recent exhibitions include Speak Truth at the Bruno David Gallery and State of the Art 2020 at The Momentary/Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art. They have created site specific installations for museums such as American University Museum in Washington DC, the Oklahoma City Museum of Art, and the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis. She holds a BFA from the Kansas City Art Institute and an MFA from Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts – Washington University in St. Louis. Jill Downen is an associate professor and chair of sculpture at the Kansas City Art Institute. They are represented by Bruno David Gallery in St. Louis.

Habitat Contemporary Gallery is pleased to exhibit the works of Fred Trease, “Biophilia” on view now through April 15, 2022
Annex Exhibition

“Biophellia”-Fred Trease, “My education has been as a biologist and a sociologist. The majority of my career has been spent in the practice of environmental public health. Whether I was making double exposures with a Brownie as a boy, photographing chromosomes and cells in college or documenting environmental conditions professionally, photography has always been a part of my life. Whenever I’ve wanted to understand something, out comes the camera.
In 2006 I began exploring the medium as an artistic outlet. For me a photograph is not a static entity, it takes a moment and allows it to be preserved for later contemplation. My images are extracted from daily life and after spending time in my head they eventually become photographs.

My work has been shown in a variety of local, regional and national exhibitions and is to be found in numerous collections in the US. In past projects I’ve explored urban social portraiture without people, captured an entire year in a single work, discovered what the night looks like in my backyard and investigated the landscape of missing buildings.”

Artist Statement: This body of work consists of digital drawings that explore ideas from biology, geology and cosmology. New ways to look at familiar things. Essentially that’s what my work is about. Using the camera and tablet in different ways to shift the paradigm of daily life.


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