In The News

On View: Grace Hartigan and Robert Thiele

April 10th, 2019
In The News

On View: Grace Hartigan and Robert Thiele

Orlando Sentinel Entertainment Reporter

Sometimes, you can look directly at something and have no idea what it is.

Obscurity runs like an unofficial theme through the two exhibits at the Museum of Art — DeLand: “Grace Hartigan: Retrospective” and “The Art of Containment: Sculpture by Robert Thiele.”

In “The Art of Containment,” the Miami and Brooklyn-based sculptor presents a series of boxes, extended frames holding objects and images. However, these frames are covered with etched acrylic windows that blur whatever lies inside.

While the boxes themselves are white and industrial looking, the subjects being obscured seem bright and colorful, sometimes organic, and always alluring. Titles for the art hold to the industrial theme, with most pieces named just a series of numbers and letters, or words that fell out of a spreadsheet, such as “To 908” or “Mid Three.”

The desire to see what sits behind the opaque window is the point of the show, frustrating the viewer with just enough detail to imply valuable information. A face. An organic process or strange anatomy. Even obvious shapes such as a red cross feel as though the true revelation is hidden somewhere in the blurry details.

Disguised and hidden images also appear throughout the collection of works by Grace Hartigan. An abstract expressionist, the New York School artist uses several techniques to bury figures within her paintings.

Hartigan was active from the 1950s until her death in 2008. Her paintings explore reductive attitudes toward women and the endurance of place identities. Sometimes, people are represented with thick black lines. Sometimes the canvas is a smear of blending colors with the barest shape of an identifying detail. Faces and bodies appear from behind painted backgrounds or within the black lines defining some other subject.

Both exhibits have their straightforward pieces too, if they can be called that. With Hartigan, some of the paintings are practically still-lifes. Still, one is left to wonder why she chose exactly these views and images to paint.

Thiele has several free-standing concrete sculptures with compartments that look as though they contain hidden tools. The structures themselves feel as if they serve a purpose but never fully state one.

The sculptor also has series of smaller objects on the wall, mostly different sizes and shapes of wood. Details, sometimes hand-drawn, sometimes carved into the pieces, suggest a theme of connection between them, but no one definition seems to work.

Both exhibits will run through May 26. The Museum of Art — Deland is located at 600 N. Woodland Blvd., DeLand. Admission is $5. The museum is open 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday, 1-4 p.m. Sunday. For more information, call 386-734-4371 or visit