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Blue Mountain Gallery Member's Show

by Diana Manister

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Morgan Taylor: Self-Portrait With TV

One of the highlights of June, 2004 was the members' show at Blue Mountain Gallery in Chelsea. "Improvisations on a Square" displayed to good advantage the rich diversity of styles and media employed by 36 gallery artists within the same square format. Materials ranged from Cornelia Kubler Kavanagh's painted plaster maquette through Linda Smith's digital print, Constance Gruen's acrylic and newspaper composition, Ken Ecker's charcoal on canvas, an etching by Victoria Salzman, a painted collage on silk by Louise Guerin, to the classic oil on linen of Rose Weinstock. So varied were the media, imagery, palettes, touches, energies and linearities employed by the artists that the sameness of the square disappeared.

Of particular delight in this exhibition were the images, both abstract and figurative, that expressed their themes with exquisite subtlety, using formal elements as correlatives to sensations or emotions, as in "Aeneas Turns from Dido," by Robert Sievert, in which razor-sharp edges separate the figures who are "cut off" from each other, and their dismembered anatomies reinforce the theme of sundering. Sievert's printmaking skills are in full evidence in this collograph; his line has the grim incisiveness of Picasso's line in his Guernica.

Marcia Clark, in "Afternoon #2," casts an atmosphere of expectancy over a winter landscape. Bluegray shadows hover over peachcolored snow. The vegetative world seems hushed, like an audience in a concert hall before a show begins. No wind blows. Trees in ranked postures seem to be waiting. For spring? Clark refrains from rendering details in sharp focus in this poetic oil painting, the better to create a dreamlike world that quivers at the near edge of the surreal. Abstract works in this show also communicate with subtle poetry: Anne Diggory's "Pear Squared" plays chubby organic forms against the logical, mathematical proportions of a grid, a nice resolution of opposites rendered with sensuousness and painterly intelligence.

With brushwork not gratuitously virtuosic but stunning nonetheless, Morgan Taylor, in "Self-Portrait with T.V," charges an interior scene with psychological tension. Taylor paints a close up of a young man, backlit by the aquamarine and salmon-colored flicker of a rectangle that we know is tv screen from the painting's title, but which could be a painting hanging on a wall behind the figure, or a window opened out to a bright flowergarden. The viewer is thrown into uncertainty. The male figure turns from the rectangle that frames him and stares out of the picture into the left distance, seemingly troubled and discomfited by the restriction of the impinging pictorial space. There is something funereal in this picture, reminiscent of Edvard Munch's griefstricken figures in gloomy rooms (the darkly dressed man even resembles Munch in appearance). Taylor's avoidance of obvious narrative allows the human drama he depicts to puzzle the viewer with its mystery. It's not often that art engages the viewer to participate in the creation of its meaning, but Taylor's work invites the viewer to speculate about what the painting's ambiguous imagery adds up to, a rewarding opportunity to exercise creative imagination and admire the subtle sensibility of an accomplished artist.

Helene Manzo's "View of Pescalo" both expresses and resolves natural paradoxes in painterly terms. Her brushwork in this landscape is both delicate and rough simultaneously. Ripples in water are rendered with what appears to be the wood end of the brush, yet they liquify. The composition rolls but is stable: cypresses lean out from a cliff like botanical versions of Easter Island totems; vegetation and rock seem to be in motion. Everything is the picture is moving or seems about to move. Land and atmosphere are in process, dynamic yet not chaotic, full of energy yet peaceful. Manzo has painted nature's self-regulating force with empathy and casual brilliance, no easy feat.

In "Landscape," an oil by Marilyn Honigman, the composition is also dynamically balanced. A horizon rendered with scumbled paint creates an "edgeless edge" where water meets the sky. With that magic that some painters perform, Honigman makes the viewer feel the pressure that the sky, dark with a thunderhead, exerts on the water below, keeping it from rising to the top of the picture. Pictorial elements are arranged with artistic sleight-of-hand to evoke the tension in the quiet before a storm, a stillness charged with electricity.

Margaret Leveson, in "Herons on My Mind" achieves the simultaneity of views of analytical cubism in a representational manner, by painting the same heron in a sequence of scenes that comprise one painting. Within the larger square, four smaller squares painted on unbleached linen depict the diurnal activities of this reedy-legged waterfowl -- flying over a dark patch of water, one wing in light, the other in darkness, or searching for fish at water's edge, a picture of total alertness, life under seige in a marsh. Leveson portrays nature with lyricism but without sentimentality, giving us the predatory nature of this solitary hunter along with its breathtaking gracefulness, in a painting that defies the chronological sequence of time.

Blue Mountain Gallery is comprised of an impressive stable of artists, as this comprehensive show so richly demonstrates. One looks forward to seeing their work in more depth in the upcoming season.


Text copyright © 2004 Diana Manister




November 15, 2004