Dan Gerdeman and Daniel Rona's conversations continue in 'About Art'

Jim Fischer
Columbus Alive
"The Tools" (16x20 acrylic on canvas) by Dan Gerdeman

Dan Gerdeman and Daniel Rona’s conversations almost inevitably become about art.

Recent conversations between the two lowbrow-inspired artists have been about “About Art.”

Sarah Gormley Gallery in the Short North hosts “About Art,” a duo show featuring Gerdeman, who teaches art at Hilliard Davidson High School, and his former student, Rona, who graduated in 2016. The pair’s ongoing conversations have been in the traditional spoken sense as well as the artistic; this is not the first time the two have shown work together professionally.

“I went to Daniel’s show last year at [Sarah Gormley Gallery] and [Gormley] saw the two of us talking,” Gerdeman said. “We just sort of automatically have this continuous conversation going on.”

“It’s pretty awesome to continue it again in this way,” Rona said.

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The show speaks to the many layers of the artistic process: where ideas and concepts come from (what Gerdeman called “painting with purpose”), art block (when those ideas and concepts just won't come), and the notion of art as a snapshot that marks a period of time both for an artist and in the world.

“‘About Art’ embodies the beauty of the creative process — including the pain and the challenges, of course — and the payoff in the work itself,” Gormley said. “I was so moved by the interaction between Dan and Daniel last summer, in addition to their individual talents, that I hoped to share that energy with a broader audience.”

“We created a reference sheet of ideas we might want to talk about,” Rona said, “but we weren’t fixed to those things only. I wanted to be able to interpret reasons why I paint, for one. We just kept to these common threads and bounced ideas off each other.”

Of course, about halfway into the creation of this work, the world shut down. While the work is not actively about the coronavirus pandemic, the isolation of quarantine almost couldn’t not find its way in.

“I’ve stayed super busy, but you’ll find a sense of loneliness in some of the pieces,” Gerdeman said, adding that he has a rare political piece in the show — a Woody Guthrie-inspired piece titled “This Art Kills Fascists.” “I don’t normally do that, but I’m ready for the end of the dinosaurs and the steam engine. It’s time to move forward.”

Rona said he did experience some creative block, brought on at least in part by the pandemic. “I had all these articles being jammed into my head. It was this weird, unknowing area we had and still find ourselves in,” Rona said.

Ultimately, politics-and-pandemic thought processes aside, the work in “About Art” remains quintessential for both artists — proudly lowbrow, comics-and-graffiti-inspired (to different degrees for each) and bursting with bright colors.

“Daniel has a vision of the world around him that’s different than anyone else. That’s been a constant since he was a student, and I’ve just seen his world and his work explode since he finished high school,” Gerdeman said.

“Gerdy is a natural, an original,” Rona said. “Showing our work together advances our friendship and keeps a conversation going that’s been happening over a long time.”

“About Art”: Dan Gerdeman and Daniel Rona

Through July 31 (by appointment)

Sarah Gormley Gallery

988 N. High St., Short North


"Gone Painting" (24x24, acrylic, oil pastel, spray paint) by Daniel Rona