Ale Groen: "Three to the Fifth" 
        Oct. 14 - Nov. 14   2021

   Portal Series

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Portal #1                 
Acrylic on Wood Panel  24" x 24

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Portal #2                 
Acrylic on Wood Panel  24" x 24"

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Portal #3 
Acrylic on Wood Panel  24" x 24

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Portal #4 
Acrylic on Wood Panel  24" x 24

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Portal #5 
Acrylic on Wood Panel  24" x 24

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Portal #6 
Acrylic on Wood Panel  24" x 24

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Portal #1 (side view)

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Portal #2 (side view)

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Portal #3 (side view)

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Portal #4 (side view)

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Portal #5 (side view)

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Portal #6 (side view)

      Consider Reason Series

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Consider Reason #1
Mixed Media on Plywood
Welded Steel Frame  18" x 16"

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Consider Reason #3
Mixed Media on Plywood
Welded Steel Frame  18" x 16"

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Consider Reason #2
Mixed Media on Plywood
Welded Steel Frame  18" x 16"

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Consider Reason #4
Mixed Media on Plywood
Welded Steel Frame  18" x 16"

 Where Lines Meet  Series

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Where Lines Meet #1
Acrylic on Wood Panel   24" x 24"

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Where Lines Meet #2
Acrylic on Wood Panel   24" x 24"

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Where Lines Meet #3
Acrylic on Wood Panel   24" x 24"

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Where Lines Meet #1 (side view)

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Where Lines Meet #2 (side view)

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Where Lines Meet #3 (side view)

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Where Lines Meet #4
Acrylic on Panel  10" x 10"

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Where Lines Meet #4 (side view)

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Where Lines Meet #5
Acrylic on Panel  10" x 10"

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Where Lines Meet #6
Acrylic on Panel  10" x 12"

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Where Lines Meet #5 (side view)

Where Lines Meet #6 (side view)

Spacial Rationality Series

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Spacial Rationality #1
Mixed Media on Plywood   24" x 24"

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Spacial Rationality #2
Mixed Media on Plywood   24" x 24"

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Spacial Rationality #3
Mixed Media on Plywood   24" x 24"

Formation of Matter Series

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Jazz  (Formation of Matter #1)
Mixed Media on Masonite   48" x 48"

Ply Structures

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I Am Empty 
Laminated & Carved Plywood   36" x 29" x 16"

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Can You Not See Me?
Laminated & Carved Plywood   36" x 26" x 15"

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Zitten  Laminated & Carved Plywood  31" x 71" x 21"

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Zittendetails

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Cloth  Console Table
Laminated & Carved Plywood  45
" x 19 " x 16.5"

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Cloth: detail

Curator's Appreciation by Sheldon Rose

                                        

Concept-driven art works often seem prey to a kind of strange contradiction of excess. On the one hand, the concept may just be too thin to carry the work in a meaningful way. On the other hand, it is easy for work to get tangled up in an over-intellectualized theory. In either case, the artist may feel as though they have met their own (conceptual) criteria in the execution, but too often we are left feeling emotionally and psychologically a little hungry. Of course, many artists are happy to shed notions of conventional aesthetic value altogether, delivering experiences and objects that are well 'outside the box' but still ask to be taken seriously. How often are we underwhelmed as we present ourselves in good faith to an artist's offerings as audience, consumer, and participant? We ante up our own responsibility (actively or passively) and come away, with a feeling that can be summarized by something like, "Yeah, okay. Cool. I get it. Uh, is that all?" Contemporary art can be difficult and it can feel lonely. And while most artists would not have us avoid making efforts to 'get it' or avoid suffering feelings of loneliness, we sometimes just can't help longing for something more. 

In this current, noisy, post-everything-we-thought-we-knew context, Ale Groen's achievements in this latest exhibition "Three to the Fifth" serve as a kind of welcome step back into a convivial context of expectation, engagement, ideas, wit, depth, and (dare I say it) even beauty. And if that weren't enough, a lot of his work is also just plain fun.

Extending the hunger metaphor for a moment, I'd like to offer that Ale Groen fills our plate. Decades of chipping away at his internal marble block have continued to reveal endless fresh perspectives on the most fundamental aspects of his various crafts. Once one takes a good look at his work, one begins to understand that he is connected to the 'mother lode' of creative potential. How could it be otherwise when the artist's deliberations centre so insistently around such bedrock concepts as Time, Space, Matter and Energy? Conceptual artists can 'hit the wall', as it were, unable to proceed with their project until arriving at certain clarifications. Groen has largely managed to avoid such roadblocks, in part perhaps because he is unafraid to tackle the implications for his work of deep contradictions. He is ready to shift his media, his format, his entire project as a result of head-on encounters between, say, the psychology of personal identity and the limits of politics, or between particle physics and Christian Spirituality, and certainly between such fluid concepts as sculpture and painting. The contradictions and conflicts arising are at the heart of the working-through that produces the objects the rest of us get to lay our eyes and hands upon. And while any particular work may embody the struggle of ideas to a more or less obvious degree, a very particular relationship to the realm of ideas itself certainly underlies them all. Groen's manner with common questions of vast scope seems to have arrived at a happy place of balance between the competing demands of solving mysteries and preserving them. Such is the artist's prerogative.

Additionally, many years of devoted practice have enabled him to know just the right moment to step back from his inner conceptual framework long enough to spin off a body of work that encapsulates his latest flash of insight. (Or, I should add, long enough to at least make note of an idea for a body of work to be reconsidered in the fullness of time. His sketchbooks are bursting with ideas that would take lifetimes to fully flesh out and execute.)

Groen is a synthesizer, an integrator: he seems unable to work with any material – wood, steel, paint, resin, found objects – without due consideration for the ever-emergent possibilities of assimilating those ubiquitous bedrock concepts into whatever his hands are doing. The 'big category' ideas are always showing up. Thus, his paintings' surfaces are never just surfaces. They are always a threshold, inviting the viewer to consider and question their own assumptions about spatial limits and boundaries. What happens, for instance, when we seriously reconsider what an edge is? What is the relationship between the two sides of a perimeter? How many kinds of black are there? Such questions (or the possibility of them) issue forth in a steady stream from both his running commentary on his work and various aspects of the works themselves as they take form. (See the Portal series.) 

Similarly, the rough-hewn surfaces of his Consider Reason series combine with the chunky hand-welded steel frames to form a kind of integral three-dimensional graphic, or a 'graphic sculpture.' The actual 'subject matter of the painting' recedes in these works to enable a rare kind of balance amongst all three visual elements. The 'subject' is still important: indeed, it is still key, central, critical. But so is the frame and so is the surface. The 'graphic design element' of the overall composition, with only a limited claim on the space, assumes a kind of earnestly non-hierarchical status. It is remarkable, really, this combining of brutalist raw steel, gouged plywood and mixed-media graphics into a composition at once substantial, harmonious, and oddly light-hearted. These pieces are so good humoured one can't resist smiling.

This kind of category-bending expression of the drive to think outside traditional conceptual frameworks occasionally yields a work of such exquisite economy of means and perfection of execution that we are truly taken aback. Such a work is the Zitten—as perfect a fusion of table and chair as we can ever remember seeing or imagining. How does such a 'thing' come about? Quite apart from the eight different technical disciplines and trades integral to its realization, how can we account for the metaphysical grounds of such an unexpected expression? Not without the artist's almost limitless patience to look at un-hallowed categories (such as 'table' and 'chair') in the most radical way imaginable and then to play outside the limits of their most enduring conventions. Zitten is a case in point for what can happen if one's inquiries truly dig down to the roots. These two objects, table and chair, are, however closely paired, conventionally thought of as separate entities. But, Groen is saying, it must not be so. What happens if we bring them together in truly radical fashion, so they actually fuse into one object? 

Such questions lie at the heart of Groen's practice and continue to animate both studio activities and the discourse around them. It is clear the man brings joy to his work and easy to imagine that taking a piece home and hanging it up on a wall might succeed in carrying a little bit of the joy with it. Do yourself a favour: take the time to formulate a question and bring it to him. You will find an artist with a rare willingness to engage in dialogue not just about the work but about the conditions, internal and external, that constitute the environment of a productive artist's working life. Groen is eminently approachable. If art is 'for the people,' you will, in speaking with him no less than in contemplating his work, unquestionably find yourself amongst the group of people that it is for. 

But turn your phone off first and don't say I didn't warn you: be prepared to really participate.

"Three to the Fifth" runs to Nov. 14.

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