Exhibit feature: Summer 2015 Group Exhibition at Angela Meleca Gallery highlights contemporary artists

Jesse Tigges, Columbus Alive

While speaking with Angela Meleca about her gallery's first group exhibition, the downtown gallery owner is examining the pieces that won't be hung in the seven-artist show opens this Thursday. It's a moment that reflects Meleca's multi-faceted approach to any exhibit housed in her gallery.

She points out, almost gleefully, how impressed and enamored she is with all of the pieces tucked away in the storage area, and how she would love to hang everything on the walls. But it wouldn't be the best way to curate this group show - featuring artists who have participated in previous exhibits in Ian Hagarty, Andrew McCauley, Mollie Oblinger, Allyson Smith and Ed Valentine, as well as two artists new to the gallery, Ron Johnson and Matthew Kolodziej.

Meleca has refined her already expert eye over the year-and-a-half the gallery has been open, calculating her initial, visceral reaction to works against a more contemplative reasoning while also considering the audience.

"I think in the beginning it was much more of a gut reaction, whereas now, it's more of a 'Why do I react a certain way?' Why do I respond to Valentine's work, but then look at Kolodziej or Johnson's work and respond in a different way? What is it about their work that makes me want to return to it, understand it and question it more deeply? That's what I've continued to hone," said Meleca. "I've always strived to have a gallery that's serious but also approachable. I feel it's my responsibility as someone who is promoting or representing artists to know what's going on in the contemporary art world inside and outside of Columbus. That's something I want to bring to the environment or community - art that would hold its own in a much larger metropolitan area but is also an affordable or attainable piece here. I think it's really important for people to have the opportunity to live with art, enjoy it. I believe that's very fulfilling and rewarding."

For the group exhibition, Meleca chose artists she had developed relationships with, delving deep into each one's practice. The goal was to offer a diverse collection that also has pieces which coalesce aesthetically or thematically.

"I specifically chose each piece for this show. It was a balancing act based on works I was drawn to and who compliments whom. Within that, it was difficult to drill down to just these pieces, but I didn't want to overcrowd the space and make sure each piece has its own room to breathe," Meleca said. "I just felt it was time to mix things up a bit. I did that by putting together seven artists that I felt crossed over different areas and different mediums. Some are more established than others, but I really felt there was a commonality between everyone."

The dozen-plus pieces in the exhibition feature both two- and three-dimensional works, all highlighting trends in the contemporary art world. Whether it's Valentine's vertical paintings referencing both components of art history and the artist's personal history or Kolodziej's mesmerizingly textured abstracts inspired by the decay of metropolitan structures - something common among artists living in areas afflicted by urban plight - all are fresh.

The final component Meleca considered for the first group show was to introduce and familiarize the gallery's visitors to the artists who'll have solo exhibits in the near future, Columbus-native McCauley in January 2016 and Valentine in April.

"I wanted to have a situation where I could introduce new artists or works that have never been seen before in this gallery, as well as artist who've already shown with the gallery. It's to almost reintroduce the viewer or have them prepare for what's coming up in the next calendar year. As I was visiting these artists and seeing what they're currently working on, I saw this thread or theme going through them that I felt worked well together," Meleca said.

"Summer 2015 Group Exhibition"

July 23 - September 3

Opening reception: 5-8 p.m. Thursday, July 23

144 E. State St., Downtown