Friday, August 15, 2014

Jackson Pollock’s legacy at B2

The Weekly Volcano, Aug. 14, 2014

"Bright Refractions" by CJ Swanson, 
acrylic on canvas, 36" x 48"
There’s a show at B2 Fine Art Gallery called “Evolution of Line & Form: Exploring Jackson Pollock inspirations.” Six painters and one photographer are featured, including former Tacomans David Noah Giles and Catherine Swanson whose abstract paintings lift the show to a higher plateau. I’m tempted to say everything else is mundane or mediocre, but those words are far too harsh. Most of the other artists in this show are good, maybe better than good, but they don’t particularly float my boat.

Judy Hintz-Cox, for instance, is an outstanding painter. I’ve seen some paintings of hers that truly rocked, but her pieces in this show are dull. They’re all minimalist abstract-expressionist paintings, some with one or two blue squares or bars on a white ground and some that look like Rothko paintings minus his unique and nuanced colors.

"Path" acrylic on canvas, 18" x 24", James Guy Jr.
Nancy McClaughlin’s paintings are expressive abstract landscapes with slashes of blue, purple and green. They’re nicely done. One of her smaller paintings toward the back hall is particularly nice (I didn’t note the title in the Volcano review but got it later. It’s called “Night Visitor”).

" Night Visitor"
Nancy McLaughlin, Acrylic on canvas, 18"x20"
Jerry Martin is listed as a participating artist but I did not even see any of his work. Where was it? How did I miss it?

I liked James Guy Jr.’s paintings, mostly hard-edge, black and white geometric shapes with a well-designed interplay of positive and negative shapes. Some had highly controlled splatters of paint laid on top of the precise black and white forms. One in particular had two concentric circles that looked like they were dribbled on with wet paint and then blown with a fan to create splatters that radiated outward. Nice.

The most Pollock-like images in the show were William Mitchell’s photographs of densely tangled tree branches — photographs imitating Pollock who famously
William Mitchell, "Tangle With Bracken Fern,"
photography, 16"x20"
said, when asked if he was inspired by nature, “I am nature.”

Swanson and Giles, husband and wife, both paint “all over” in the Pollock manner, and their paintings are vibrant, sparkling and well designed. Giles’ work is expressive with multiple layers of paint, expressive mark-making and an exciting profusion of overlapping squares and circles and squiggles. These are by far the most “painterly” works in the show. Swanson’s paintings are more deliberate and controlled (keeping in mind that Giles’ are more controlled than they appear). She lays squares and circles and bottle shapes and other forms on solid-color backgrounds, creating movement in space. In some of her paintings the forms seem to be floating in space; in others they reverberate in shallow space.

David Noah Giles, "Return," 48" x 48" acrylic on canvas 

In Swanson’s “Freed Up” multicolored squares float in a ribbon that coils snakelike across a black canvas. In “Layered Links” pink, yellow, brown, blue and green chain links overlap and interlock on a soft gray background. Her “Geometric Plane” offers prismatic forms like faceted stained glass that undulates in shallow space. Her paintings appear playful and decorative, but there is much more to them than meets the eye in a cursory glance.

Full disclosure: I had a show in the gallery Swanson and Giles once owned in Tacoma, Art On Center, and was in a group show with them at the Convention Center in Seattle a few years back. So perhaps I was predisposed to like their work, but it was refreshing and exciting to see it after a long absence.

B2 Fine Art Gallery, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday, till 9 p.m. Third Thursdays, through Aug. 21, 711 St. Helens Avenue, Tacoma, 253.238.5065]

No comments: