Thursday, September 19, 2013

The 11th Annual Local Juried Art Exhibition at the gallery at Tacoma Community College

The Weekly Volcano, Sept. 19, 2013

The 11th Annual Local Juried Art Exhibition at the gallery at Tacoma Community College may be their biggest ever, with 40 artists and some of them represented by multiple pieces; yet the show does not seem crowded.

As with all juried exhibitions, there is some good stuff and some not-so-good, but the good outweighs the mediocre. Following are comments on just a few of the better works.

“Sensory Ecstasy,” painted construction by Nathan Barnes
Nathan Richolt has two dark and moody photographs of rotting ancient barns in abandoned fields with stormy skies overhead. He captures a feel of rot, decay, loneliness and threat in these photos. Next to Richolt’s pictures are two similar photos by Greg Erickson. In his photos the abandoned buildings are school houses that look as if they might have last been used around 1920. The amazing sky behind the buildings present a view of what appears to be an arced ribbon of cloud but which, judging by the titles, is the milky way.

"Blue Counterpoint," metal sculpture by Don Haggerty
Don Haggerty, known as a painter, is represented with a small metal sculpture that, nevertheless, uses two-dimensional design principles in its brilliant use of negative space. It is modest in scale and composition but I can easily picture it 20 feet tall outside on campus.

I love the use of energetic swipes of color — most especially the thin, watery washes — in William Turner’s brightly colored abstract landscape “Caliente.”

There are two small pieces by Becky Knold. As with Haggerty’s sculpture, I can picture these much larger. They are cloudy and atmospheric, and if done big would draw he viewer in like the paintings in the Rothko Chapel or like the best of Jules Olitski’s color field paintings. Her pieces in this show are typical of her latest paintings, which are all based on the idea of two panels stacked or placed side-by-side. This is the kind of thing that usually looks contrived or that makes me ask “Why not just make one painting the size of the combined panels?” But she usually makes it work. Knold has come a long way since starting her art career late in life and I would encourage her to take the next step into boldly working on large-scale paintings with more color.

untitled painted construction by Ron Hinson
Becky Frehse’s pastel and gauche  “Act II Scene 2” features highly expressive abstract bugs and bees. I like the painting but do not like the burnished frame, which detracts from what it frames.
Andrea Erickson’s sumi “Crane Dance” is a masterpiece of restraint — so much said with so little, and the negative white space makes it come alive.

I could write a long essay comparing Gerry Sperry’s abstract assemblage “BRĀV” and Ron Hinson’s untitled painted construction. Both are colorful painted constructions that jut out from the wall. Sperry’s uses geometric shapes like triangles and circles and squares, with a target and blue and white wave forms. Hinson’s shapes are more organic and curvilinear, his construction more complex, and his textured surface is marvelously lush. I like Sperry’s piece; I love Hinson’s.

David W. Murdach is an artist new to me. His “Drone (The Magnificent Killing Machine)” is a steam punk sculpture with beautifully crafted shiny metal parts. It looks like some kind of 1940’s vision of a futuristic space ship.

Also new to me is Nathan Barnes, whose paintings “Emergent World” and “Sensory Ecstasy” are outstanding, semi-surrealistic, humorous and skillfully painted. “Emergent World” is a contemporary fantasy scene with realistic people, houses, stacks of tires and industrial factories in the background that, although painted in a photo-realistic manner, defies any sense of reality. “Sensory Ecstasy” is a mixed-media painted construction that is hypnotic and hilarious. There’s an eyeball and a tongue that… well, you’d have to see them.

Irene Osborn’s “Chemotherapy” is a chalky white clay sculpture of the bust of a bald-headed woman with haunting black holes for eye sockets. It is fear and pain personified.

I have mixed feelings about Tom Gross Shader’s “Avalanche,” a painting of a man trapped in a box that is covered with an avalanche of snow. The paint application looks like a paint-by-numbers picture. I think if I spent more time with this one I’d grow to love it. The same is true for Alain Clerc’s “Green Dog,” a pop art-style painting of a dog with a green-and-white face and a toothy grin.

Overall this is an enjoyable show. Do yourself a favor and go see it.

[Tacoma Community College, Juried Local Art Exhibition, noon to 5 p.m. Monday-Friday, through Oct. 18, reception Sept. 19, 4-7 p.m., Building 5A, entrance off South 12th Street between Pearl and Mildred, Tacoma.]

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