Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Age of Aquarius in Butler

The Art Center in Butler is a full-service community facility. In addition to the galleries (at least three), the Center offers workshops and classes (both children’s and adult), a gift shop featuring member’s work and a reading nook stocked with art books, magazines and instructional guides. And on most Friday evenings the Center hosts the “Spirit CafĂ©”—an alternate coffeehouse—providing a venue for aspiring poets and songwriters to hone their craft. In the midst of this flurry of activity the Associated Artists of Butler have mounted the Age of Aquarius—their fifth (and most ambitious) celebration of the art and culture of the ’60s and early ’70s.
The broad themed show offers artists a great deal of latitude in both subject and style. As in past years inspiration has been provided by events ranging from music and television to politics and social upheaval. The leaders in popular culture is the Partridge Family; one entry features the musical aggregation on a tambourine-clock while another converted a hi-fi consol into the Mondrian bus, replete with a vinyl album casually placed on the “roof.” Bridging the gap between pop culture and politics are a pair of tie-dyed fiber pieces by David Garlick. The “Ghost of Garcia” appears on a tee-shirt while “Dead, White and Blue” uses the image of the flag in the best tradition of anti-war protest. Alan Byrne’s “Kennedy Triptych” (first place award) is a purely political painting that incorporates contemporary computer effects with black and white news photos. The three images bookend the triumph and tragedy of Dallas with an iconic portrait of JFK.
Just as the art of the Aquarius decade was influenced by a variety of artists, some pieces in the Butler show are reminiscent of past trends. “The Judgment of Paris” has been a favorite with artists and Andreas Grotewold’s delicate pen and ink drawing brings to mind the highly erotic work of Aubrey Beardsley. The Nineteenth Century English artist enjoyed a revival in the ’60s and Grotewold’s interpretation captures the spirit of the age. “Day of the Dead” by Jesse McKinnis is a brightly colored painting recalling the “dia de los muertos” found in Mexican folk art. This “Pop” version seems right off a soup can label. Ruth White-Wetzel’s “Peace” is an exuberant expressionistic acrylic that captures the excitement and eclecticism of the ’60s movement. Having very much the feeling of a college dorm room (right down to the candle in the chianti bottle) the collage-like images and striking red background take use on a journey through the counter-culture.
The exhibition continues through February 22 with many activities planned throughout its run. Check out their website at “”.