Friday, July 9, 2010

Gumpert and Currie

A good match at Childhood’s End

Published in the Weekly Volcano, July 8, 2010
Pictured "Alla," oil on canvas by Alfred Currier

Now showing at Childhood’s End Gallery in Olympia are paintings by Chuck Gumpert and Alfred Currier, plus a group of the very popular half-man/half-bird ceramic sculptures by the husband-and-wife team of John and Robin Gumaelius and other works. I’m going to limit my comments to the paintings by Gumpert and Currie, two radically different artists whose contrasting styles complement one another nicely.

Gumpert is showing a group of a dozen loose, organic, abstract paintings that appear to be informed by but not imitative of nature. A lot of them look vaguely like undersea vistas or galaxies and star clusters in deep space. The paint is thick and loosely applied, often splattered or brushed on wet and allowed to pool on the canvas. He uses mostly earth colors — dull greens and browns.

Interestingly, what makes some of Gumpert’s paintings very successful is the thing that keeps others from being successful, and that is the mixture of figures and other recognizable natural forms with his organic abstract shapes. In a painting called "Between Darkness and Wonder" there is a figure that is not visible at first, but which becomes obvious upon closer study. Once this figure becomes clear, it gives definition to the entire painting. It’s an excellent combination of figurative and abstract art. But superimposed on it is a splatter of white paint that looks like a star cluster seen in the heavens, which separates too much from the rest of the painting and seems contrived. Similarly, there is a painting called "Coral Concerto" that would easily be the best painting in the show except there are two shapes that look like shadowy figures from a noir detective story, thus making the whole painting seem too illustrational. If these two shapes were more abstract and less figurative it would be a much better painting. This is the irony I indicated above. The imposition of figurative elements in an essentially abstract painting made one picture successful and kept another one from being successful.

Currier is showing paintings of Paris street scenes that look like a combination of landscapes and city scenes as painted by the French Impressionist Alfred Sisley and the modern American Edward Hopper. These paintings are strong, well composed, and despite the obvious subject matter more about color and shape than about city streets and gardens. There is no attempt at originality in Currier’s paintings. What he does has been done many times before and often by greater artists; but that doesn’t seem to matter. These are beautiful paintings. His colors are magnificent — especially on the glowing awnings in his street scenes — and I love his dramatic use of strong light and cast shadows. Look at the buttery yellow awning in "Rainy Days, Paris" and the angular shadows on "Daily News," or the flickering reds of flowers and masterful placement of figures in his "Alla."

[Childhood’s End Gallery, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday-Saturday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Sunday, 222 Fourth Ave. W, Olympia, 360.943.3724]

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