Thursday, June 30, 2011

"Pink Skies"

Lush Landscapes at Mavi Contemporary
 "Hot Lilies" oil on canvas

"Blueberry Field" oil on canvas

The Weekly Volcano, June 30, 2011
The name of the show is Under Pink Skies, but the skies above the lush and colorful foliage in the Nina Weiss landscapes at Mavi Contemporary Art are orange and lavender and a steely blue-gray - not just pink.

The colors and the sure and deliberate brushstrokes in these landscapes are like rich confections, lakes and streams and bright skies made of sugar and whipped cream.

I easily tire of landscape art. It's generally very boring and predictable. After all, who ever does anything truly original with landscape art these days? Nobody, that's who. So I was pleasantly surprised to discover that I really liked these paintings.

The scenery is typical. There are bodies of water with marsh grasses and water lilies surrounded by trees with lots of sky. There's nothing unusual in any of that, of course. What makes these paintings stand out is the paint application.

Weiss, a nationally known artist from Chicago, applies her paint in very deliberate swirls and blobs of semi-translucent layers. It's almost as if every leaf and every wave is a separate dash or swirl of color with, in many cases, clumps of trees and grasses set off by dark contours. What these paintings are about is color, shape and paint application, not trees and sky and water. Paint takes precedence over subject matter, and I'm just enough of a stodgy old purist to think that's what painting should be all about - or it's not worth looking at.

"Ames Pond Diptych" is a long horizontal painting (80 inches wide) with a light blue sky that sits forward on the picture plane over a line of evergreen trees with vibrant dark edges - most notably with the lone tall tree on the right. The lily pads and grasses pop dramatically against the dark water.

"Hot Lilies" is one of my favorites. The sky is a milky orange and the trees and water are dark green with the same milky quality (if I keep repeating the word "milky" it's because it's one of the more unique aspects of Weiss's paintings). Clumps of leaves are layered light on dark as if squeezed out of a cake decorator‘s tube, and there's a little spot of red on the left that is so hot it looks like it's about to burst into flame.

Different from all the others is "Pearl Street," a picture of houses on a country road with leaf-bare trees in tones of orange, blue and yellow and, as in "Hot Lilies," an effective use of light over dark.

Not all of her colors are bright. Weiss uses dull colors very effectively and keeps most of her paintings within a narrow value key. An excellent example of the good use of dull colors can be seen in "Blueberry Field, Fenville," which is in tones of green and gray with dull accents of burnt orange and purple.

These are very enjoyable paintings worth careful contemplation. Also showing are abstract paintings by William Quinn, William Turner and Christopher Mathie, and in the vault landscapes by Michael Crowman - a carryover from a previous show but with some new additions.

Mathie's "Double Entendre" is a brilliant little gem of a painting. Be sure to visit the back gallery and take a look at this one.
Under Pink Skies

through July 17, 2–7 p.m., Wednesday–Sunday
Mavi Contemporary Art, 502 Sixth Ave., Tacoma

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