The exhibition of paintings by Ilene Themen and bronze sculptures by Nelson Carrilho is on view at Hammonds House Galleries, 503 Peeples St.S.W. Atlanta, May 17 - Aug 23. 404-752-8730

Arts & Entertainment
Dutch Treat
at Hammonds House
By Donald Locke

Dutch treat

         It will certainly come as a surprise to many Hammonds visitors that the tiny island Curaçao, in the Dutch Antilles situated off the coast of Venezuela, has produced an artist who is every bit as professionally distinguished as his fellow countryman Andruw Jones, outfielder for the Braves. Baseball aficionados all comment on the incredibly strong instinct Andrew Jones has for the game of Baseball, for his ability in defense, of being able to read the position of the ball before it arrives at the spot which it was hit by the batter. The comparison might be odious, but Nelson Carrilho seems to me to possess equally powerful instincts - but for the plastic arts instead of sports.


Carrilho: Quo Vadis Domine

         His bronze sculptures are made up of individual segments, each cast directly from wax models which are then welded together to make the finished work. His palette of metal components also includes found metal objects, such as keys, and in one remarkable figure in the three-part sculpture Fools Parade #6 - We are going  to Holland, he welds the rusty, discarded guts of an old alarm-clock on the top on to the top of a life-mask cut off just above the eyebrow. The influence of African sculpture hangs heavily over most of the work selected for this exhibition, either in form of translations, as in the central figure of the piece mentioned above, or as direct bronze casts from the wooden original, as in Going Back Home .

         This is deliberately kept as an imperfect cast which shows the flashings, as they are called, where the molten bronze leaked through cracks in the plaster investment when the metal was being poured. There is a "William Tell" apple on the head of the figure, which has a ritualistic hole in the forehead. It stands on a fish, a rotting, decayed object, a satire which needs no explanation.

         What this examination reveals is that Nelson Carrilho is exceptionally intelligent in his art-making: he must have been among the brightest and most talented at the Academy of Design in Utrecht, Holland, where he studied. The term "influence" used earlier is therefore not accurate. There is no self-conscious posturing in his handling of the African originals, nor does he use them in a quest to learn about sculptural form, or to get a rise out of a cheap and easy reference. They are treated as a natural part of his cultural inheritance which he uses to make subtle but biting satirical commentaries on his environment. The show itself is titled "Walking on Water".

         Picasso, from whom so much contemporary art has sprung, always took care to point out that it was not the novelty of the formal inventions that made African sculptures so great, but the overwhelming spiritual and emotional power they contained. In part, it is this meaning one senses that Carrilho is extracting to inject into his compositions. He also mines other areas of European art, including Giacometti, as well as the fantastic inventions of the 17th century Flemish painter Hieronymus Bosch, from whom the image of a fish on two legs is taken, but Carrilho's imagination unifies everything he borrows and gives it his unique voice.

         Also in the exhibition are paintings by Ilene Themen, who was born in Surinam, studied in Surinam and in Rotterdam, and currently lives in Holland. She is of a different artistic tribe from Nelson Carrilho's, and while there is a certain interest in the stylized and decorative abstractions of the human figure, they lack the wider ranges of meaning his sculptures contain.

         In the rear gallery at Hammonds House there are 17 very small works on paper by Themen, which appear to have been executed at the same time, as a series. They are painted on torn pieces of one or more kinds of handmade paper with irregular shapes. In the best of these, when the blood is flowing, racing to get the gesture down, she is successful to a degree which is hardly hinted at in her other paintings in the exhibition.




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