BY TRACEY O’SHAUGHNESSY | REPUBLICAN-AMERICAN
Five Points Gallery in Torrington is fast becoming one of the most exciting new art galleries in the region.
The store-front gallery along Torrington’s Main Street has always had pluck and dash, but in August it added a spacious second gallery commensurate with its manifest commitment to showcasing contemporary art. Virtually all of the artists it has shown have been from this area, and the most electrifying artist it has found so far appears to have been hiding under its noses.
Wayne Herpich is a Torrington native and graduate of the Pratt Institute and Yale University who spent 40 years working at the Torrington Company. Heaven knows what he did there, but it couldn’t have been anything like the galvanizing paintings he now has on view in the stunning new North and West galleries.
His “Fitted for Wings” seem to shimmer along the flat white walls and over the polished blond floors of the gallery. These vibrant, kinetic images have all of the shimmering static of an old television set. But the colors and shapes are so boldly chosen and so thickly applied, that the works have almost a phosphorescent quality.
V-like shapes of confectionary orange and lemon yellow clash against bold lilac horizontals and thick, crimson reds. Each of these vivid colors seems to clatter violently against an opposing color, yet each glyph and glob, each hypnotic wave and form holds its own distinctive shape. How a painter in oils manages to juxtapose such diametric colors without dribbling off into dissonance — or mud — is mind boggling.
Herpich’s works have all of the rhythmic intensity of African textiles or drums. They play with texture and form, color and harmony in a way that creates a dizzying puzzle of emotion. This non-objective abstraction doesn’t necessarily attempt to suggest any known form, but instead seems to stand on its own symphonic structure. Together, these clashing colors and forms — most of them no bigger than 3 to 4 inches, nestle against one another and sidle up in strangely harmonious patterns that defy theory. Each jagged piece — and there are hundreds of them on a single four-foot-by four-foot painting — has its own personality. Look closely and you’ll see daubs of aquamarine so thickly and yet delicately applied that they look like petals emanating from the flat surface.
Sometimes the paint is as light as a stain, while in others the paint appears to have been applied with a palette knife and has a gelatinous consistency that invites touch. Bands of color reach crescendos and drift off into sand bars of color, totem poles of shape, and all of it expresses a blossoming exuberance.
Only one, “Detrologia,” swathed in elegant blacks and rich eggplant purples, has an almost ghoulish quality, with its bat-like shapes suggesting a manic malevolence.
But for the most part, Herpich works suggest a world in which each distinctive element may be bold, defiant and richly original in itself, without disturbing the energy force of a neighbor who is just as audacious and feisty in its own right. In these days of polarizing politics, it’s energizing to see an image in which those differences produce a galvanizing harmony, rather than a rancorous belligerence.
In the front gallery, Donna Forma creates enormous organic works that appear to take on the question of inner lives and the forms we create to protect and shield them. Her cocoon-like sculptures look like hives, burrows or nests that have come out of some fantastical forest.
The enormous “Hive,” looks like a huge wasp nest but was created out of handmade paper, clearly wrapped and woven with a delicate, sustaining intensity. Other works are created with bands of walnut, heated in a steam box and then clamped to larger forms. The result is a womb-like orb with deeply textured subtleties woven together to create a swirling shape. Some of Forma’s works are done with mica sticks and dog hair, bamboo, thread and horse hair. They combine to make queer, cozy burrows or dens, all snug in their own glorious imperfection.
One untitled piece, created with string-like translucent glue and enormous bending and arching sticks, suggests a diaphanous form, almost like a reclining odalisque. At night, when headlights from oncoming cars hit it, it is said to take on the ghostly shimmering nature of an embryonic being.
This is a gallery that continues to enchant.