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Exhibit open through May

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Outstanding color and whimsy sculptures along with beautifully rendered grid canvasses raised plenty of endorphins last Saturday at Marquee Projects Inc.’s artist reception for Fukuko Harris and Larry Wolhandler’s show “Budding.”

“They were waiting outside,” reported Harris of the over 100 good-natured spectators that extended down the sidewalk past the popular storefront gallery.

Not surprising. Harris’s playful, vibrant sculptures created out of recycled materials and Wolhandler’s expansively calm paintings conveying the possibilities of the grid, were clarion calls to the community, as in: “The weather is beautiful, we’ve been cooped up too long, and this artwork is, well, magic!”

Come on down. You’ll be awed.

Harris, born and raised in Tokyo, who now lives in Manhattan and Montauk, discussed her work via FaceTime. (She received the New York Studio School’s Hohenberg Travel Grant, among other prestigious awards.)

“I don’t want to make something you can buy in a store,” she said. Her inspiration muse is tapped when discovering other people’s throwaways. “Things like these pillows,” she said, referring to the amusing mixed-media stack of 10 small square pillows, like a little Leaning Tower of Pisa called “Fragment.”

“I’ll think, Is there anything I can do with them?”

Harris’s “Look Closer” tower, with green- and pink-wrapped material on wire resembling white caterpillars with black dots (packaging popcorn) inching up, is aptly named. It’s a kind of free-flung composition of unwanted stuff made beautiful. It’s topped with blue cord above supermarket netting and what looks like a bird’s black crown of feathers.

Marquee Projects Inc. Gallery owner and artist Mark Van Wagner inserted a funny anecdote. One of Harris’s sculptures got a visitor so excited, arms were flung out as in, “Oh wow!,” knocking over “Mixed Media Untitled 14.” (It’s being repaired.) There are currently 13 pieces of her work on display.

“There’s so much joy and color,” Van Wagner said. “They have a freshness.”

Wolhandler, who lives in Brookhaven hamlet, is well-known locally. (He also has 13 works in the show, including the front window display.) He was an owner of Painters’ Restaurant for 12 years, that ode to good food as well as artists’ work hanging frame to frame on walls and from ceilings, a nod to his Parisian days of 10 years where he worked and studied, observing that cafés featured art in their establishments. (Ask him about his three-year residency at the prestigious Cité Internationale des Arts in the Marais District.) The art allowed patrons to linger, look more closely, and buy.

(The new Painters’ owners kept the good food; some artwork still exists.)

He’s been an artist himself for years—actually, since his teen days in Utica, where he grew up.

Wolhandler was asked why his affection for grids.

“It’s not affection,” he said frankly. “When you’re standing in front of a blank canvas, it’s terrifying. A grid gives you structure. I’ll draw a grid on which you can build on. Someone told me, ‘Your paintings are all like the containment coloring book. You create the lines but don’t stay in them.’”

Wolhandler said he tends to stumble on the material he chooses and doesn’t start out with fixed colors in mind. (He browses the remainders in the paints aisle in Lowe’s.) “A friend was making a concrete countertop and he gave me some material. So, I skim-coated the canvas,” he said of “Untitled 2021,” 48 x 60 inches, oil, acrylic, pen and pencil on canvas.

Look closely.  There are concrete drips, a thin yellow stripe, touches of pink and blue hues emerging as whispers against the beige-white backdrop. “This line is a ballpoint pen,” he said, of lines, using different colors.

How does he create the straight lines? “I use a T-Square,” he said. The T-Square was actually incorporated in the painting.

He really liked how “Untitled, 2022”, oil, acrylic, pen, pencil on canvas, 36 x 48 inches, worked. He laid the T-Square on top, sprayed it, and worked within the grid.

What’s that mauve mark down lower?

“That’s schmutz,” he said, grinning. Actually, it’s a delicate abstract art touch.

Van Wagner pointed out that Harris and Wolhandler knew each other as Manhattan residents when their kids went to school. Both are represented by Marquee Projects and have been featured in past exhibitions, but this is the first time they are in a single show. Needless to say, their art chops are prestigious.

You have time to catch the exhibit. (Several of the artworks were sold on Saturday.) It will be at Marquee Projects Inc.’s headquarters, 14 Bellport Lane, Bellport, on Friday to Sunday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. to May 22.

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