Thursday, February 17, 2011
Through March 26: "Cubistic Embrace"
The Weekly Volcano, Feb. 17, 2011
"Cubistic Embrace," pastel by Ric Hall and Ron Schmitt, courtesy B2 Fine Art Gallery
Ric Hall and Ron Schmitt are phenomenal. They do pastel paintings working in tandem - not taking turns working on the paintings but working side-by-side and simultaneously, and, from what I've heard, with hardly any planning or discussion but reacting to one another with what has been described as a collective subconscious.
But it is the quality and inventiveness of their art, not their working method, that makes these partners unique. Their art is mostly dark and ominous, combining elements of Surrealism and Cubism with imagery reminiscent of Ben Shahn, Jacob Lawrence and Walt Kuhn. Figures are broken up and recombined, and fingers are knife-like such as those in some of Picasso's most threatening images. And like Picasso, there is underlying sexual tension in many of their images.
I've been following their work for many years. Their latest show at B2 Fine Art Gallery, called "Cubistic Embrace," is different from other Hall and Schmitt shows in a number of ways. First, it's the largest show of their work I've ever seen. Second, there's more variety in style and subject matter than I've seen in any of their earlier shows. And finally, for the first time they're each showing individual works, not just the collaborative pastels.
Schmitt is showing a group of five pastels that range in style from abstract to surrealistic to naturalistic. Each is of a single figure. There's one called "Birth" that is very dramatic picturing an infant and a man with a green face. Another one called "Jungle Ballet" is of a nude in a severely contorted position. Her body is naturalistically modeled with heavy shadows and a beautifully drawn white line is superimposed on her body. The line follows the contour of her body in places and contrasts with it in other places. Hall is showing some carved wood sculptures that are interesting but not as good as the pastels.
The best work remains the work they do as a team. I particularly enjoyed one group of similar paintings with intertwined bodies that are more rounded and organic that most of their work. When you go, look for the wall with "Constituents Collected", "Dimensional Escape" and "Heat Wave".
Another fascinating piece is a man with jigsaw puzzle pieces covering his face and flying off into a blue sky with fleecy white clouds. This one reminds me of paintings by René Magritte. Even more Magritte-like is a piece called "Proxies". A woman's head opens up to reveal a blue sky and to her left are three figures that are folded and bent like flowing strips of ribbon.
B2 is Tacoma's newest gallery. It's a beautiful and spacious gallery, and the art in this show is tastefully displayed. Let's extend a big T-Town welcome to gallery directors Gary and Deborah Boone.
Through March 26, 11 a.m. – 5 p.m. Thursday–Saturday, till 8 p.m. Third Thursdays
B2 Fine Art Gallery, 711 St. Helens Ave., Tacoma