Thursday, May 16, 2013

The pastel invitational

"Reversal of Roles," pastel by Ron Schmidt and Ric Hall
 The Northwest Pastel Society's 27th Annual International Open Exhibition at American Art Company features works from 58 artists from across the United States and Canada. Almost half the gallery is taken up with nice little landscapes that are amazingly similar to one another, and about a quarter of the gallery is filled with portraits and other figurative works that are also a lot alike, but not as much so as the landscapes. 
There is one nude by Paul Barton of Olympia that is nice in that the figure is not idealized and there is some dramatic play of light and dark. There are a couple of Pop/photo-realist images by Kari Tirrell of Gig Harbor that are technically amazing. Tirrell’s “Train Wreck” is the juror’s pick for Best in Show. There’s a painting of race horses by Joe Mac Kechnie that looks like a Leroy Neiman sports illustration (Director’s Award); one purely abstract painting by Barbara Noonan of Seattle that is atmospheric and nicely executed; and a clever painting by Cinda Sue Dow of Friday Harbor of two zebras standing in the middle of a landscape that is an amalgamation of van Gogh’s “Starry Night” and “Wheat Fields” (without the crows).

The absolute best thing in the show is Ron Schmidt and Ric Hall’s “Reversal of Roles,” a picture of a family seemingly huddled together in fear in a claustrophobic room with an open door. A kid with a head that is weirdly disjointed from his body clings to his father; the mother, dressed in a blue knit suit with matching handbag, seems anxious to go shopping, and there are strange colors and eerie triple shadows. It reminds me of Max Beckman and Emil Nolde. If only there were more works of this caliber in this show.

Another of my favorites is Janie Hutchinson’s “Frosty,” an attractive winter landscape of orange trees in snow-covered fields.

Almost every work in the show is beautifully done with either a softly layered surface quality or admirable realism, but the imagery is far too common. The show sorely lacks creativity. The President’s Award, Laurie Potter’s “Facing the Day,” has to be the worst award choice I’ve ever seen.

 [American Art Company, Northwest Pastel Society’s 27th Annual International Open Exhibition, Tuesday-Friday 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., Saturday 10 am. to 5p.m., Third Thursday until 8 p.m., through June 15, 1126 Broadway Plaza, Tacoma, 253.272.4327]

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