Vintage furniture serves as canvas and conduit for Coloratura. 

Bureaus of Investigation

How is a painting on a piece of furniture categorically different from a painting on a canvas? It is a question to consider when contemplating the thoughtful installation in the rear of Cudahy's Gallery, where Rob Womack and Catherine Roseberry, the husband and wife collaborative team of Coloratura, are presenting their most recent works. Since graduating from VCU's School of the Arts in the late '70s, both artists have used vintage furniture as backdrop and provocation for their seductive, painstakingly executed images. The painted furniture that they have produced since that time reveals both artists' knowledge of and interest in material culture, and their sensitivity to the rich history of design and the parallel stylistic development of the arts. Womack and Roseberry investigate the interrelation of tendencies between an era's furnishings and its artistic consciousness and they illustrate their interpretations following the eloquent example of their chosen period's attitude and shape. Roseberry's style is softer, subtler, generally more pastel dreamlike in tone. This is especially true of the two autobiographical pieces that represent her recent experience as a new mother. Both are done on bureaus, upright pieces of furniture that convey order, propriety and a sense of secrecy. The earlier piece "Elusive Joy" is a vertical chest of drawers that intimates the prolonged process of awaiting a yearned-for child. It reveals its plot in rose-festooned (a reference to the artist's name, perhaps) fairy-tale style of truth telling. A revised Rapunzel story of creativity, a young woman sequestered in her tower anticipates delivery in the form of an infant rather than the traditional romantic suitor of the original story. The anonymity of the infant Roseberry depicts in the first bureau will follow over to the next one. Here the narrative expands in the manner of fairy tales with another lesson on longing. Titled "Put-Away Time" each upper drawer of the chest is labeled like a file cabinet, discreetly identifying the stored contents, compromises to time and intention that infant care involves. Lower drawers are labeled for the innocent objects of learning and delight that daily engage children, requiring ongoing sorting and tidying. Roseberry's piece plays off the relationship between longings and belongings, between imposed and self-imposed discipline. Her parable rests lightly upon and wraps sweetly around genteel but sturdy 1930s furnishings that have accommodated generations of similar domestic terms with their starched articles and private paraphernalia. Rob Womack's paintings more broadly evoke the culture of his furniture's architecture. "Dream Cars" sports a different natty, fin-featured automobile on each halved segment of the 1950s three-drawer chest. Sharply streamlined with a cantilevered facade, the chest serves as the perfect prop for Womack's highly stylized, nearly real and totally imagined classics. The remarkable, authentic auto-inspired drawer-handles on this piece offer a small clue to Womack's modus operandi with much of the vintage furniture he interprets. While chests of drawers seem to inspire narrative scenes from both Womack and Roseberry, tables evoke patterns. "Bridge," a dining table, and "Ouija," a coffee table, serve complex overlays of repeating compositions. "Bridge" has an intertwining pattern of roses and ribbons that suggests an enticing, liquid depth of plane, while "Ouija" offers up bubbles, either painted into or resting upon its high-'50's playful arc-shaped surface. Moveable round glass discs hover like water beads, ever ready for psychic intervention or cocktail glasses. Such are the symbolic and practical options of art that are made upon furniture.


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