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Gallery ABBA show “Lore” spectacularly spooky

Gallery ABBA’s latest show, “Lore,” arrived just in time for Halloween. “Lore” opened on Friday, Oct. 26, and features the illustrations of self described “witch fanatic and Halloween junkie,” Brenden Haskins.

“Lore’s” opening was a success both artistically and financially, as all but two of the artists’ framed drawings were sold. The drawings themselves are composed of pen and ink, and feature a variety of macabre subjects, such as ghosts, skeletons, and an impeccably well-attired frog (named Gregory). The majority of Haskin’s illustrations  are shaded using cross-hatching, a technique that compellingly evokes Edward Gorey’s Victorian themed artwork. Haskins blunt yet foreboding titles, such as “Old Farmer Weary” (a scarecrow-like farmer with a jack-o-lantern face) further align Haskins with the late author and illustrator.

One particularly compelling motif in Haskin’s works, such as “The Ghost of Ms. Thyme,” and “Mr. Church” is the recurrence of figures whose faces are wrapped in a gauze or sheetlike substance, their facial features fully obscured but for two dot-like eyeholes. The most obvious similarity is to the classic Halloween ghost costume, but I couldn’t help but be reminded of Rene Magritte’s classic painting “The Lovers,” which depicts a kissing man and woman whose faces are hauntingly enshrouded in white fabric. To steal a bit of analysis from Moma.org, “The Lovers” can be interpreted as transforming “an act of passion into one of isolation and frustration.”

Isolation is certainly a theme in Haskins work, particularly in what I felt was his strongest piece, “7603, W. Wormwood Avenue.” “Wormwood” is a drawing of a solitary house whose only neighbor is a dark leafless tree. A grassy hill drawn in heavy black ink takes up most of the foreground, the shading lightening as the hill meets the creepy two-story house. The houses lights are all off except for a second story window, which is lit by a pumpkin-like orange, suggesting a very lonely and radiant squash-like presence (or maybe just someone who picked up a couple orange light bulbs at Party City). Most compelling of all are the numerous vertical lines that cut through the night sky, which give the work a very Edvard Munch woodcut type-vibe.

Also noteworthy is the “The Broom Maker,” which makes great use of depth and space. A tree in heavy shadow takes up the the foreground of the right side of the frame, and poking out behind it is the silhouette of a gnome-like figure (or maybe Elijah Wood’s character in the cartoon Over the Garden Wall). The figure is sandwiched by yet another darkened tree in the background and all the heavy black serves to make his hollow white eyes especially unnerving. One of the joys of the piece is trying to decide if one should feel sympathy for this figure (they’re hanging out in a verrry spooky forest after all) or if one should be afraid of it (why are they hanging out in this verrry spooky forest?!)

This strange space between scary and sympathetic is where most of Haskin’s work operates and it does so quite effectively. “Mr. Church,” for example, shows a spookily long fingered figue in a top hat, sitting upon a casket. We should be terrified of him but he’s waving at us, looking as friendly as it’s possible for someone without a mouth to look. This naughty and nice dichotomy is where Halloween thrives, and I’m grateful to Haskins for adding his moody and visually striking take on it.

Do your spooky self a favor and check out “Lore” before it leaves.

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