Saturday, August 1, 2015

Driven to Abstraction at B2

Published in the Weekly Volcano, July 30, 2015

Pacific Palisades” by Vic Wade. Photo courtesy B2 Gallery
I’m so tempted to make a play on words from the title of this show, but gallery owners Gary and Deborah Boone beat me to the punch.  Driven to Abstraction showcases the works of three painters whose common thread is abstraction but whose approaches to art are quite diverse.
"Composition #2" by Elmore Williams. Courtesy B2 Gallery
One of the three, Elmore Williams, paints in such diverse styles that he’s like four painters in one. He is extremely eclectic, drawing on inspiration from Pablo Picasso, Jackson Pollock and some of the early 20th century American abstract artists like Stuart Davis. His “Composition No. 2” and a similar little painting on the adjacent wall are lovely Davis-like paintings with vibrant colors. Going in totally different directions, there are two gritty little paintings near the reception desk with burlap, ivory and fishnet collage, a pseudo Pollock hung high over that same desk, and a whole bunch of cubist paintings, some with Afro-centric figures and themes, that are nicely designed but too derivative.
Picasso stole from everyone and bragged about it, but still, if you’re going to steal from Picasso, the faces and hands should not be so much like those by the master. As for being Afro-centric, he’s just returning the compliment; it was African masks more than anything else that inspired cubism.
South Sound gallery-goers are certainly familiar with Becky Knold by now. She’s one of the most prolific and ubiquitous painters working in the area today. And she’s damn good. I didn’t count, but I estimate there are close to 20 Knold paintings in this show. They are all abstract, many inspired by landscape, and they all have rich but nuanced surface textures and color variations. Most of the colors are muted. They are restful but with an underlying intensity like skies with storm clouds just beginning to gather in the distance. 
In the central gallery area are three large Knold landscapes. Two versions of “Shimmering Bay” depict water with land in the foreground, sky in the background, all in muted tones of brown and shimmering gold. A third in the series is abstract enough that you can’t tell what is land, sky or water, but has the same feel. All three feature gold horizontal bands in the middle.
There is understated expressive energy in Knold’s paintings. The most energetic piece in this show is one called “Unleashed Horizons.”
The most highly expressive paintings in the show are two by Vic Wade, “The Caves of Altamira” and “Pacific Palisades.” These are rough, gritty, tumultuous paintings. I particularly like the floating blue shapes and the contrast between relatively flat shapes and dense lines and swathes of color.
Like Williams, Wade has included works in quite different styles. A real departure and, in my opinion, one of the best paintings in the show is “Origins of the Universe,” a simple painting with a few roughly drawn oval shapes floating over a dark brown and black background that is locked between two broad bands of green. It is the teetering sense of being almost unbalanced that makes this painting stand out. I heard that future shows with Williams are slated for B2, and I look forward to seeing them because he is a man who knows what to do with paint.
Driven to Abstraction, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday, through Aug. 15, B2 Fine Art Gallery, 711 St. Helens Avenue, Tacoma, 253.238.5065]

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