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Two worth the trip

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Work of international street artist Edgar Mueller is featured adjacent to newly opened City Art Gallery.
Edgar Müeller's trompe l'oeil street painting ArtPrize 2011

Edgar Müeller's trompe l'oeil street painting ArtPrize 2011 /Alison Zdan

Underwriting support from:

City Art Gallery Review

City Art Gallery offers a wide variety of fine art and high craft in a setting that is relaxing.

Artist Steve Arver with one of his works at City Art Gallery Grand Rapids

Artist Steve Arver with one of his works at City Art Gallery Grand Rapids /Alison Zdan

By Alison Zdan, Hope College student

City Art Gallery, a recent addition to the local art scene, is located north of Grand Rapids’ main downtown ArtPrize Hub at 41 Sheldon Blvd. The venue opened in June of this year and features the works of 23 artists working in a wide range of media. The quaint, welcoming building with a bright strawberry door located near the intersection of Leonard St. NE and Ionia Ave. offered convenient parking.

Approaching the venue, one immediately notices the painting on the surface of the parking lot. German-born street artist Edgar Müeller and his collaborator the Slovenian Tomaz Frenk Frajnkovic worked 56 hours to complete this impressive trompe l’oeil/illusionistic acrylic painting on the pavement. You might recognize Mueller’s work from the many on-line photographs of people teetering on the edge of tall collapsing icebergs that are actually painted, in the middle of an urban sidewalk. The elongated painting does not appear proportionate until you stand at proscribed location which brings to life an eagle almost exploding out of a waterfall and above burnt orange cliffs that appear to be hundreds of feet tall. The massive scale and the intense color draw you into a fascinating fictional world. Müeller allows viewers to walk right on top of this painting and get an interactive snap-shot inside the painting, which you can then download from his website

Once inside City Art Gallery, I was initially drawn to a uniquely crafted table titled “Reflections.” It is the work of Steve Arver, participating in ArtPrize for the third year. The intricate patterns of dark lines and circles seem rather beautiful until you realize they were caused by growing fungus and insects chewing holes in a once-living maple tree. Arver saw these imperfections as “diamonds in the rough,” and focused on the naturally occurring geometric patterns with his woodworking method to embrace nature’s true events. Arver employs a process called bookmatching, which involves cutting a section of lumber into panels, then arranging the panels often in a bilaterally symmetrical arrangements. he further modifies these to create multiple little kaleidoscopes images. His unusual and highly skilled technique results in works that have the appeal of unique fine art that is a delight to the eyes and senses, as well as functional.

This venue offers a more inviting presence than the traditional “white box” gallery. The converted residential structure features five main galleries/rooms and an outdoor garden. Artworks can even be found in the bathrooms, serving as a rather odd invitation into an ordinarily uninviting location. The garden features a well-balanced mix of media that allows the viewer to take in each piece separately-- an important consideration for ArtPrize viewers who necessarily must see multiple art pieces in a short period of time. The shift between textures and materials allows consideration of each individual work. While the homey interior is welcoming the chairs provided for resting, although comfortable, curiously did not encourage prolonged engagement with the artworks.

Featured City Gallery artist Paul Asselin, although not included in Art Prize, is pleased with the increased number of visitors to the gallery due to it being a 2011 ArtPrize venue. Asselin stated “it’s good to see a variety of people who don’t usually go to galleries.”

Hopefully the appreciation for art in Grand Rapids will continue past October 9, and while the work of Muller will fade over the ensuing months, people will be able to return to City Art Gallery.

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