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Gallery View: Arthaus ‘Hot Bed’ warms it up

Arthaus features Pennsylvania artists Brian Gormley and Paul Deery, along with a group of Cuban Pop artists with “Hot Bed - Graffiti, Pop, Hip.”

It’s the second major show for the recently-opened community art space at 645 W. Hamilton St., Allentown. The exhibit of contemporary art continues through Jan. 9, 2021.

“‘Hot Bed’ reflects the energy of the 1980s and 1990s in the United States with the art movement at that really exciting time,” said curator Deborah Rabinsky, referring to how artists experimented with materials in the visual arts and music.

Brian Gormley’s early work was shown alongside that of Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat. Gormley’s paintings provide a fusion of graffiti and abstract expressionism connected to the aesthetics of street art. His mixed media pieces are stacked with layers of acrylic, oil, silkscreen and other materials.

An example of this is Gormley’s “To be titled” (2020; oil, mixed media on canvas, 38 in. x 38 in.). Having worked on the piece since 1983, with around 30 layers of paint underneath, the painter said, “It just told me to stop.”

The unframed work is from Gormley’s series, “The New Dark Age,” which he worked on while taking care of his mother as she battled Parkinson’s. “America was falling apart. My mom was falling apart,” Gormley said, adding, “I was trying to find some beauty in this bouquet of mistakes I put together.”

For Gormley, each painting can remain a work-in-progress for many years. The artist said he will work on 10 or more canvases at a time, often returning to rework them until he decides the piece is finished.

Gormley, a New York City native, received a bachelor’s in art and architecture from Cornell University and a master’s from New York University. He studied art history and printmaking. Gormley is based in Bucks County, in the vicinity of Durham Press.

Easton-based artist Paul Deery has playful word-puzzle sculpture in the gallery. His “Motto” (2019; repurposed table top, maple, 55.5 in. x 17 in. x 11 in.) spells out “E Pluribus Unum” in a balanced stack of letters cut from old tables tops salvaged from a renovated diner. “As a country, we are still standing and we’re still working together, but it’s still very confusing and it’s difficult understanding each other sometimes,” Deery said.

Deery, originally from Philadelphia, studied at Tyler School of Art.

Pop culture tributes by Cuban artists, represented by The W Collection, form the third part the exhibit. Included is Consuelo Castañeda’s three-piece series of “Popeye” images.

Castañeda’s “Tattoo 1” (2016; digital print on cold press bright paper, 20 in. x 20 in.) features cartoon character Popeye in a classic punching pose. The Cuban-born artist overlays the iconic cartoon sailor from pop culture with political commentary relating to her Cuban roots. Popeye’s anchor tattoo is replaced with a hammer and sickle to represent Russia’s influence on her former home.

Castañeda lives and works in Miami. The other artists work at the Newport Warehouse Marketplace, Havana, Cuba.

Arthaus, 11 a.m. - 6 p.m. Tuesday - Saturday. Closed Sunday and Monday. allentownarts.com; 610-841-4866

PRESS PHOTO BY ED COURRIER From left, Brian Gormley and Paul Deery. Between them is Deery's sculpture “Motto” (2019; repurposed table top, maple, 55.5 in. x 17 in. x 11 in.). Behind them are abstract paintings by Gormley, including his larger work “To be titled” (2020; oil, mixed media on canvas, 38 in. x 38 in.).