Thursday, April 24, 2003
Photo: David Fleming''s "Berlin Hotel" took first place.
The recently opened juried exhibition at the Pacific Grove Art Center presents an array of images that underscores the fact that competent, but not terribly profound, work is being done in our area.
Titled Close to Home because the call for entries was to California, Arizona, Nevada and Oregon artists, the show features 52 works selected by noted Sacramento painter Gregory Kondos. His selections reveal a concern for artists'' ability to put together a decent image, but the show he has choreographed dances over the well-trodden terrain of landscape and figurative conventions to such an extent that individuality is obscured by source recognition. Maybe that is the result of what was presented to him?
A journey around the gallery produces various responses: Ah, here''s Klee; oh, there''s Cezanne; a little Fauvism going on; welcome Kokoschka and Impressionism, not to mention the influence of such enervating "how-to" sources as American Artist magazine. The result is to locate the familiar rather than be taken someplace new.
The most difficult thing for an artist to do, besides acquiring technique, is to find an artistic voice, that confluence of mind, heart and hand that produces a unique expression. Toward that end, an artist naturally is pulled in one direction or another by favorite artists, but at some point, those influences have to be assimilated for the individualistic bell to sound loud and true. At the Pacific Grove Art Center show, no bells ring, but there are chimes that make pleasant sounds, and a trip to see it is worth the effort.
As in most juried art shows or art "competitives," there are winners. The choices are often as problematic as the concept of an art competitive itself (first one "there" wins?).
The first-place winner was David Fleming''s "Berlin Hotel"; second place was Elizabeth Palmer''s "Vision from the Cliff"; and third place was Julie Smith''s "Maybe not the same day, but obscure no less." Fleming''s painting recalls Kokoschka''s late cityscapes with their vertiginous vantage points and bright colors. He strikes a balance between the broad handling of paint and solidly formed structures, warm and cool colors.
With strident acrylic colors, Palmer has created a shimmering dreamscape. A simplified monumental female figure observes a candied sweep of a bay. The painting is a summary of painting''s shorthand--quick brush, slashing palette knife--and has the readymade charge of a young woman reflecting on the vastness of her future via the vastness of the scene.
Julie Smith''s image is a high-contrast street scene of ink on canvas. Through vigorous editing of information, Smith achieves an austere, yet dynamic impression of movement.
Kondos himself is primarily a landscape painter. Perhaps this is why the landscapes in the exhibition work better than the figurative pieces? A saccharine sentimentality corrupts too much of the figurative work in this show. The landscapes, however, working within tried and true conventions, resonate, and reveal confidence and skill.
Laura Williams'' "St. Jean" is a superb image of a vineyard with a backdrop of trees and houses. Small in scale, it''s an intimate view that does artistic double duty by creating a sense of place as well as alluding to a greater place of agrarian harmony, history and potential.
Mark Farina''s "Point Pinos Oil House" is another seemingly effortless depiction of place. His melding of brush stroke and form definition is effective, made more so by deft sun spots that activate shadow areas.
In "Croatian Harbor," Diane Howell makes a political statement through Impressionistic means. Whether intentional or not, she alludes to Croatia''s recent history. There is her deft depiction of a coastal town, all red tile roofs and white walls, but it crumbles into dashes of reflection on the water. From top to bottom, the permanent becomes the impermanent and transitory.
Fred Carvel''s bold "Saddle Mountain, Carmel Valley" is a semi-abstract statement about mass and essence. With thick pigment and intense primary colors, he captures the solidity of rock and the tectonic forces within. One senses magnitude even in its small scale. Think a poem about the power of earth.
Though not a pure landscape, Cornelia Nevitt''s etching and dry point "Capture and Release" is an eye-popping display of drawing and printmaking craft. Two massive hands release a raptor in the foreground of a landscape. It''s an essay of texture, line and space that draws one in like a vortex.
Close to Home offers a mix of many mediums and styles, a chorus of many voices. Though the exhibition of 50 artists'' works offers nothing new, it does indicate what is being done in the region and is, therefore, an informative experience.
Close to Home continues at the PG Art Center through May 30.