Maine’s new contemporary art museum: Wow.

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        ROCKLAND — The only way to describe the new Center of Maine Contemporary Art is breathtaking.  
 
 It is probably the only building in Maine that would make Frank Lloyd Wright jealous.  It is spacious, compact, and exciting. Its sweeping vistas and spacious galleries show art to its best advantage.
The building was designed by Toshiko Mori, an internationally-known architect, who lives in New York and spends summers on North Haven Island.
 
The CMCA’s  goal is to be a catalyst in stimulating the arts across the state with new and exciting exhibitions. It does not collect art or sell art. It shows professional artists who are challenging the art world with new perceptions.
   
This 21st-century, futuristic-looking building is an object of beauty in itself and a treat to see, separate from the art inside it. Clean lines and glass give a feeling of uncluttered space and make a perfect  setting for contemporary art. Unlike the Guggenheim Museum in New York, it does not compete with the art in it, but provides a backdrop for art to be shown.
       The CMCA had its roots as an artists’ cooperative gallery, Maine Coast Artists, in a Rockport fire barn and livery stable.  That was in 1952. 
Sixty years ago, the gallery was the first to show Bernard Langlais, Robert Indiana, Alex Katz , David Driskell, Ed Gamble, Lois Dodd and Jacob Lawrence to name only a few.
   Eventually, the gallery ran into financial difficulties and down for a  period of time. Suzette McAvoy took over as director in the fall of 2010.  It was decided to locate a new structure on a side street in Rockland, at 21 Winter St., near the Farnsworth Museum.
CMCA’s  inaugural exhibition, which comes down mid-August, is filled with exciting works by three artists: Jonathan Borofsky, Alex Katz and Rollin Leonard.
 
World-renowned Ogunquit sculptor

        Borofsky’s “Digital Man,” a steel, geometric abstract sculpture 26 feet tall, greets you as you walk through the outside sculpture court at the entrance to the gallery, setting a serious contemporary art scene.
        The most unusual works in the gallery are created by  Borofsky, an Ogunquit sculptor, who is internationally known, but has rarely shown work in Maine. He is an artist and sculptor who focuses on human forms interlocking in molded translucent  plastic.
        In the first room to the left are works by Borofsky titled “Particle Soul” and includes the sculpture of many human forms holding hands, standing in groups, on each others’ shoulders, extending to the height of a 16-foot ceiling. The sight is awe inspiring. Many abstract drawings on the wall, each four feet high, surround the molded interacting figures which look like a multi-glass sculpture of humanity in the center of the huge room. The figures, which are holding hands, look like they are uniting all human life in the world, right in the center of one gallery. The sight takes your breath away. In addition, on the wall is Borofsky’s philosophy in bold print:  “Art can be personal. Art can be universal. Art can be psychological. Art can be philosophical. Art can be spiritual. Art can be a prayer. Alternate man and woman.”
Borofksy’s sculpture  showing men and women holding hands, and his statement on the gallery wall in bold print, reflects his philosophy of life: We all need each other and he creates that message visually in his art.
 
Alex Katz, the early studies
        In the second room of the gallery are 22 small paintings by Alex Katz. They are interesting early studies. However, Katz is known for his larger works, and it would have been more interesting to have seen a few of his larger works together with small early studies to show the changes as he matured as an artist. It is significant, however, that Katz’s  works are shown because he was one of the artists involved with the original gallery many years ago, and his works make a significant contribution in support of the new gallery.
Many of the original group that started the gallery have passed away, but Katz, now known internationally, is still creating, supporting the gallery’s spirit of searching and showcasing new contemporary art in Maine.
 
The world through a droplet
 
        The third room in the gallery holds the work of Rollin Leonard, titled, “Vernal Pond.” Leonard is a photographer who captures through his lens, water droplets mixed with resin which create a three-dimensional abstract design and can be adhered to the wall in different patterns. His playful images can be seen in the work “Rainbow,”  running across the front wall lobby entrance. However, in the third room Leonard’s work holds a more somber collection of photographs mixed with resin, including several videos. Leonard’s video work, “Spinning Pinwheel of Death,”  is the most outstanding work in this room. The work has video clips with blinking off-and-on images, constantly rearranging the design of the work.
This room is named after Bruce Brown, a former curator of the gallery, whose selection of contemporary art over the years gave many Maine artists tremendous recognition in the beginning of their careers. Brown is highly respected in the Maine art world and it is nice to see him recognized in this manner during his life time.
         It is important that you make a trip to Rockland to see the inaugural exhibit of CMCA soon because it is coming down in early August. This exciting new art gallery has great courage to show artists who are creating unique works of art in Maine today. Its potential of being a visual catalyst for contemporary art in Maine is evident in this outstanding exhibit.
        The inaugural exhibit comes down during alternating times: Borofsky, Aug. 12, Leonard,  Aug.14, Katz,  Aug.17. The inaugural exhibit is definitely worth the trip to Rockland .
        The CMCA gallery is open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. Sunday, from 1 to 6 p.m.Closed Mondays. General admission is $6. Members are free, as are children under 12. There will be  rotating exhibits throughout the year.

 
 
 
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