Kevin Smalley’s surrealist, cartoon-inspired paintings require some work from the onlooker, but in doing so, he says it engages the viewer’s imagination.
“I find that to be one of the most treasured experiences to looking at art and giving the viewer the gift of using their own imagination,” says Smalley, whose artwork joins that of Kevin Richards at a new show at Mustard Seed Market & Cafe at Montrose through Feb. 21.
Smalley describes his art as a “gloop of doodley lines” that come together. “I like to think of myself as a tornado mixing Tim Burton and Dr. Seuss,” he says, adding he is process-driven. In fact, he created an abundance of work in a short amount of time just for this exhibit, which is curated by artist Jessica Lofthus.
Although Richards and Smalley just met for this show, each artist’s work complements the other. Smalley’s abstract cartoonish paintings convey a sense of movement and urgency, while Richards’ photos, with multiple exposures, evoke a sense of peacefulness and beautiful stillness, while maintaining an abstract presence.
“For me, this show takes me outside of my comfort zone,” says Richards, who studied photography in art school and works as a professional photographer and designer. “I use double exposures and digital mediums and manipulation, which traditionally I don’t do. I’m more of a traditionalist at heart with more film-based things.
“Normally I would be searching for a gallery, but I like the idea of putting it out so anyone could see it and seeing what they’re interpretation would be of the work.”
Smalley’s work is prolific, as he created a number of pieces just for this show over the course of a few months. “I don’t like having a subject,” he says. “I don’t like having strict ideas. I just doodle and scribble and then I let that first layer provoke me into what I’m going to make.”
He adds: “I’ve always enjoyed trippy and abstract artworks. As an illustrator, I create these fictional worlds and characters, and when you think of illustration, you think of a cartoon. It’s sort of like if you lived in an illustrated world, what would abstract artwork look like? Bold lines, crisp edges and very fun and playful imagery.”
Lofthus, who, earlier this year created a 400-foot mural at the Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath junction on Quaker Street in downtown Akron, has been curating shows at both the Montrose and Highland Square Mustard Seed locations. The Highland Square location currently has some stunning photography by Jodi Ashe-Crossley.
Mustard Seed Cafe in Montrose is located at 3885 W. Market St. The exhibit space is newly renovated and the show runs through Feb. 21. For info, visit www.mustardseedmarket.com. For more on the artists, visit www.kevinsmalley.com (Kevin Smalley) and www.studiokmrphotography.com (Kevin Richards).