Rhythmic Assertions and Suggestions at Solvang’s Elverhøj

Painter Seyburn Zorthian and Sculptor Aristides Demetrios are Simpatico Gallery Mates at the Elverhøj Museum of History and Art

Works by Aristides Demetrios and Seyburn Zorthian comprise the Rhythm + Movement exhibit on view at Elverhøj Museum of History and Art | Credit: Josef Woodard

At first blush, there might not seem to be much thematic or stylistic resonance between painter Seyburn Zorthian and sculptor Aristides Demetrios, currently featured in a two-person exhibition at Solvang’s Elverhøj Museum of History and Art. Zorthian, a respected veteran of the Santa Barbara County art scene, creates post-abstract expressionist canvases, with an exuberant spirit. Demetrios, who lived in Solvang and Montecito before passing away in 2021, deals with tidier expressive pieces in shimmering bronze, often informed by architectural or anatomical themes.

Differences aside, the pair does make for compatible gallery mates, and the show’s apt title — Rhythm + Movement — gives us an easy way into appreciating the connection. Both artists deal with implied visual rhythms, sometimes with musical analogies humming in the background.

For Zorthian, whose range of seminal influences includes the gestural impetus of Japanese calligraphy and jazz, the musical cross-talk is at the fore, especially in pieces with such music-centric titles as “Free Jazz, Bitonality” and her watercolor/gouache piece “Salsa Rhythm.” Musical parallels have been intrinsically linked to art, especially in painting involving degrees of abstraction, from Wassily Kandinsky to Stuart Davis and movements including abstract expressionism and minimalism. Zorthian falls right into sync with the time-honored music-art symbiosis. 

In her painting simply named “Improvisation,” a dark hatched background is the base over which bright-colored gestures and freewheeling arabesques swirl on the surface. One can easily make an analogy to the figure-on-ground correlation of a horn player improvising atop the foundation laid down by a rhythm section. “Explosive Cadence” manifests its title with morphing forms, seeming to be coming undone, splattering active new shapes — and melodies, figuratively speaking?

Two larger paintings — “Quartal” and “Modulation” (another musical cross-reference) — find the artist dealing more directly with the art of layering and discovering a painting finding its form. (As Zorthian says in a statement, “the first brushstroke usually becomes the soul of my painting … ”) For these epic-scaled pieces, the painter describes the process of laying the canvas on the studio floor and stepping on it to gain a personal interaction and intimate perspective on the unfolding composition.

One of the intrigues of seeing this relatively smaller range of Demetrios’s work, compared to his grand brass fountains at the Monterey Bay Aquarium and his bronze fountain “Mentors,” at Santa Barbara City College, is an intimacy factor. “Between the Lines” is built from radiating spines and arcing lines set at angles, vaguely suggesting fluidity and flight. The subject is more apparent in “Head Over Heels,” in which a lithe female figure is perched in an improbable one-hand stand. It projects a free-spirited notion, through which, yes, both rhythm and motion play key roles.

Rhythm + Movement is on view at Elverhøj Museum of History and Art, 1624 Elverhoy Way, Solvang, through January 22, 2023. For more information and museum hours, visit elverhoj.org.


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