He’d always admired the work of Berlin-based artist Arturo Herrera, but had never expected to meet the renowned artist in person.
But as an independent contractor for The Contemporary Dayton, Jeffrey Cortland Jones is regularly called upon to install the gallery’s exhibitions in the downtown Arcade. A professor of art and painting at the University of Dayton, Jones recently found himself in the company of an artist he’s respected for many years.
Herrera, originally from Caracas, Venezuela, was in town to put the finishing touches on his exhibit “Between” and to present an artist talk. The other shows currently at The Co showcase local artist Tyler Macko’s assemblages and three films by Mansfield native Kevin Jerome Everson. Everson, who shoots most of his work on 16 mm film, seeks to share the everyday lives of the Black community and to illuminate its celebrations, work and achievement.
Herrera’s colorful art fills the main gallery: two giant wall murals are enhanced by framed collages. “In the past he’s done the wall paintings as a singular piece in an exhibition,” Jones explains. “In this case, he had the idea of combining the two different works — the wall paintings and the collage.”
The mural installation required a team of seven and two weeks of intensive work. Herrera’s artwork, created digitally on a computer, was sent to Jones as a file which was then translated onto the walls. “We used a projector and projected his image onto the wall and drew it all out and painted it,” Jones explained. The six hues were specified by Herrera: bright Pantone colors, Benjamin Moore interior house paint. Jones says the task required artists that were detail-oriented and could work with precision.
Jones says the installation was taxing because they wanted to make sure everything was perfectly correct and because they knew that the artist would be coming from Berlin. “It was an amazing experience!” he says. “Getting to work with the crew was great. It’s the first time we’ve needed a group of that magnitude.” Team members used brushes, rollers and climbed ladders. The murals are large — 60 feet in length on one of the walls.
Meeting the artist
Everyone was excited to meet Arturo Herrera face-to-face. ”Our team was just finishing up the murals when he came,” recalls Jones. “He wanted to experience the space, so the collages that went on the walls weren’t hung until he got here.”
Specific placement was decided by Herrera with assistance from Jones and Michael Goodson, curator and director of programs at The Co. “It was really a special moment for me because I got to work with an artist I highly respected,” Jones says. “It became a kind of collaborative process.”
Collage typically includes printed material that comes from books or magazines and is then cut-out and pasted onto various surfaces. Hererra cuts them out with scissors; the collection of fragments are then put together to create a new image. “They’re really colorful and playful,” says Jones. “They are abstract but you do see a lot of recognizable imagery. There’s always humor in his work and I really enjoy how he uses all of these different materials and cast-offs. He’ll be cutting up something in his studio and instead of throwing it away or disposing of it, he’ll bring it back into a new piece of artwork and give it a new purpose. It’s both a way to conserve the waste but also a way to say, ‘This is a cool shape, how can I reuse it?’”
Look closely at the framed pieces and you’ll spot the work of famous artists Herrera venerates — Picasso, Manet, El Greco. “In collages, I’m basically saying ‘I’m here with friends,’” Herrera told the crowd in his artist talk. Says Goodson: “At this point in his career, he’s thinking about art history as a one large collage. His recent collages are a tribute to artists throughout the centuries.”
Jones found Herrera’s talk extremely insightful. “It was an overview of the last several years of his creative process and the collages he’s done around the world.”
After the talk Jones joined Herrera and others at The Silver Slipper. “He was extremely kind and generous,” says Jones about his idol. " He had a great sense of humor which you can see in the work. He was very witty.”
Goodson says while this exhibit may look like abstraction, it’s not in the way people generally use that term, a la Jackson Pollock. “These are meticulously painted and plotted out,” he says. “It has the viewer thinking about abstraction in many different ways.”
Jones advises those who visit Hererra’s exhibit to slow down. “It’s abstract but you will see a lot of recognizable images. Investigate it. You’ll be rewarded by spending time with the work.”
HOW TO GO
What: Three exhibits: “Between,” by Artura Hererra; Tyler Macko’s “A Voice from I don’t know where” and films by Mansfield native Kevin Jerome Everson.
Where: The Contemporary Dayton, 25 W. Fourth St. in the Dayton Arcade.
When: Through July 2. Hours are 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday; 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday. First Fridays until 8 p.m.
For more information: 937-224-3822 or email@example.com
Related programming: A talk with filmmaker and artist Kevin Jerome Everson will premiere online on Friday, June 2. Previous talks by Arturo Herrara and Tyler Macko can be found on the website: codayton.org.
For a time-lapse view of the Herrera installation, see https://vimeo.com/817777960