Ending an impressive year at the Main Street Gallery is the latest of its annual small-paintings exhibitions. Programming has ranged from strong solo shows by distinguished local artists Victoria Romanoff and Kumi Korf to less-even group efforts focused by theme or medium. Come 2008, the gallery will be on hiatus for about two and half months. "2007 Small Works Painting" is a fitting conclusion, eclectic but well-balanced. Pieces were chosen from submissions by painter Joy Adams (an emeritus professor at Ithaca College) and gallery director Roger Smith.
My Map II and My Map III find common ground between abstract art and cartography. Both are by local artist Yongjeong Kim. Her two acrylics are relatively large - fourteen and a half inches square - and incorporate bits of fabric and other collaged materials. Apparently influenced by modernist artists like Paul Klee, Kurt Schwitters, and Chuck Close, they show loop-filled aerial views of rivers, roadways, and buildings. The painted areas are often murky, lacking in color contrast. The fabric additions help both pieces in this regard, particularly III.
According to the artist, II loosely depicts the outside and inside of her local Warrenwood apartment building, including her L-shaped sofa and imagined views of neighboring apartments. III zooms out a bit to show nearby Triphammer Mall and its surrounds. The correspondence is loose.
Aerial perspective is a compelling artistic device. Abstraction in art can be an effort at transcending the visible world, whereas realism tends to focus on the concrete and the everyday. Birds-eye landscapes can have the best of both worlds. They present familiar places in a de-familiarizing way. At least a handful of local artists are working in this rich vein. Barbara Page's scale-jumping paintings and her natural-historical mixed-media relief Rock of Ages, Sands of Time (at the Museum of the Earth) come to mind. Kumi Korf has a print show up this month at Chandler Fine Art in San Francisco. Included are large intaglio pieces in which cutout-like abstract bird-shapes trail curves over brushy backgrounds. Craig Mains has done a number of witty prints showing burning crop circles. (Unlike the other artists above, his perspectives are from oblique angles and sometimes show the horizon.)
Two pieces offer more straight-up forms of abstraction. John McLaughlin's jaunty oil Fair Fun features a cascade of fluid brushstrokes, both translucent and opaque. Pale, whitish blue dominates the background; these are overlaid in white, mustard yellow, ochre, and purplish grays. Thinner, rope-like curls of paint sit on top. Metamorphosis by Laura Glenn is perhaps a bit too sweet. The piece is done in watercolor and ink on paper, with little torn-paper bits collaged. Pinks, blues, and purples dominate. Calligraphic forms in black resemble Chinese characters, and the composition has something of the all-over evenness of the written page.
Four artists are showing work in encaustic (melted wax mixed with color pigments). The medium is seductive as well as novel; a temptation seems to be to use it to build up luscious surfaces while neglecting the underlying image. Paul Kline's Stairways buries an angular photo-collage of shadowed stairs in translucent white, a seemingly incongruous atmospheric effect. Martha Ferris' NOT is more texturally interesting; unlike the other wax pieces, the surface is scratchy and weathered-looking rather than smooth. A standing silhouetted woman bends down; layered over her is an uneven translucent grid and three blocky letters: N O T. The yellow-red-blue color scheme is effective, if obvious. Neither these nor Paul Kline's Toxic Plaza nor Martha Ferris' Sherry's Closeup (a fragmented femme fatale in blue, green, pink-red and peach) quite lives up to their textures.
A pair of tiny portraits by Vanessa Irzyk provides one of the show's few compelling investigations of the human figure. Induced is done with watercolor and polyurethane on board, while Swaddled adds oil paint to the mix. Each features a mischievous, child-like face, surrounded by white. The heads are built in an almost sculptural way, composed of layers of translucent brushstrokes which are loose but short and finicky. Unexpected colors include pale pinks and oranges as well as a dark, purplish red (the latter mostly in Induced). Induced is a diptych; the right side is mostly empty.
Landscapes and cityscapes are more common themes. Margaret Olney-McBride presents a pair of bookmark-sized panoramic oils on paper. The wintery fields and trees of Landscape Slice and the sea-like cloudscape of Sky Fragment 2 (its low low horizon capping silhouetted hills) are rendered in brushstrokes which pack a suprising amount of energy into such a small space. Jerry Schutte's Kansas is comparable, although its impasto is thicker and more stolid. The urban scenes show a greater stylistic range: from the flat and (overly) dry illustrational quality of Sue Wall's Brownstones and City Roof Tops to the whitish colors of Erica Pollock's impressionistic Overpass.