It Figures: Local Artists Unite @78thStStudios


Fri 8/15 @ 5pm

This Friday, 78th Street Studios opens the doors of its four floors worth of galleries, studios and more to the public for this month’s Third Friday open house. A number of new exhibitions will be unveiled for the very first time. Perhaps the most anticipated (within the art community), is located in the second floor’s HEDGE Gallery.

Joe Ayala and John W. Carlson have been planning their two-man exhibition, It Figures, for months. Both artists are active members of the community – despite recently spending so many hours in their studios preparing for this show. Although the artists’ styles differ greatly, their work shares many common threads. These threads tie this exhibition together with harmony – even when they seem to pull you in completely different directions.

The show’s title refers to their common subject matter – the human figure. Carlson’s expressive paintings evoke raw emotion and psychological explorations. Ayala’s mesmerizing portraits go far beyond the boundaries of pure realism. His subjects radiate with intriguing personalities that encourage an active viewing experience. Both artists’ work contains symbolism for the viewer to decode. An active viewer can use these contextual clues to create their own interpretation of the works.

“The works are often personal reflections of pain, addiction, recovery and progress; elements of life that many can relate to,” says HEDGE’s owner Hilary Gent. “The artists are attempting to use painting and drawing as an exploration of the human condition in today’s society, and offer their art as a method to communicate restoration and healing.”

John W. Carlson was born in Ashtabula, and attended Cleveland’s Cooper School of Art. In 2009, he was invited to participate in the Florence Biennale by the Internal Committee of the International Biennial of Contemporary Art. He currently teaches painting classes at BayARTS and Orange Art Center (as well as his studio in downtown’s Artcraft Building). His influences include Lucien Freud, Edward Hopper, Franz Kline and Egon Schiele.

Last Friday (8/9), Carlson curated The Eye of the Beholder –  a group exhibition at BAYarts featuring Justin Brennan, Dan Corrigan, Michael Heaton, June Hund, Charles Mintz, Loren Naji, Mary Owen, Joe Psarto and Douglas Max Utter.

“Hedge Gallery is known as one of the premier galleries in NE Ohio,” Says Carlson. “So when Hilary offered this opportunity, I embraced the chance to create a variety of work by pushing the boundaries of the subject matter and variety of mediums.”

Joe Ayala is one of the city’s most accomplished self-taught artists. At one time, he was a contributing artist and assistant to legendary Minimalist Sol LeWitt. Just before LeWitt’s passing in 2007, Ayala helped complete what would become his final mural design. The mural is part of the Akron Art Museum’s permanent collection. Later, he became a founding partner at Wall Eye Gallery during the early days of the Gordon Square Arts District’s rebranding. Recently, he served as the Gallery Director of Cleveland West Art League (CWAL) – located on the first floor of 78th Street Studios. He works out of a studio lovingly nicknamed “The Spider Room” in his home in Lakewood.

“What I love most about this exhibit is the contrasts of style and techniques John and I will display in our collection,” says Ayala. “His is more modern, dynamic, active and spacious with anonymous figures encouraging the viewers to move and explore with them. Mine are classically inspired, dark and more reserved with ‘caught in a moment’ portraits from iconic figures throughout history and pop culture. Yet our works greatly complement each other due to our love of monochromatic tones, bold themes and overall atmosphere. It’s going to be a great and fun show and an honor to work with John and Hilary.”

Be sure to get to 78th Street Studios early to check out all of this month’s festivities. Highlights include an exhibition of Micro Art Space’s latest Artist-in-Residence, Erika B. Hess (of Michigan), Christine (Tina) Ripley’s work at Naji, Naji and Tekler, Board to Death — an exhibition of artwork on skate decks at E11even 2, Thom Rossino and Bob Walls’ 2-man show at CWAL (The Nearby and Hereafter), a second helping of FORUM Artspace’s Bazaarbeque group show/cookout and much, much more!



Josh Usmani is a 27 year old local artist, curator and writer. Since 2008, his work has been featured in over 50 local and regional exhibitions.






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2 Responses to “It Figures: Local Artists Unite @78thStStudios”

  1. DEPENDING on WHICH part of world in spidie is a delicacy….add chocolate or deep fry or open pit spit time… Gal pal thing turns guys on and some women. Ok so a emotional support commentary there… Hey..if folks do,like art, want a nite out, BS,have a 25 cent wine cup and it helps re use a building then life is good….GOOD artwork…Wish best. Take care there….Adios.

  2. Mona Lisa thing…commentary on church or other… or genetic engineering. OR freak shows… PIC poor drunk,drugged slob who looks at pics….

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