Saturday, August 30, 2014

Beautiful quilts at American Art Company

Published in The Weekly Volcano, Aug. 28, 2014

“Pause,” quilt by Nancy Erickson
The “NW Contemporary Art Quilt Exhibit” at American Art Company is always loaded with beauty. This, the 12th annual installation, is no exception. Not only is almost every quilt on display of the highest quality, the manner in which they are displayed is excellent as quilts are grouped by color and style and even the sculptures on stands are placed near complementary quilts (both spellings of complimentary apply).

It seems to me that there are a lot more small quilts in this year’s show, and the smaller ones work well in the space.

In the front gallery purple and orange prevail — full-bodied, rich colors, with a predominance of geometric abstract designs. The modus operandi seems to be contrasting solid colors with delicate linear drawings in thread.

"Winter Silence" by Carla Dipietro
Barbara Nepon’s “Channels” is a grouping of four small vertical panels, each with four rectangles of contrasting colors, purple, gray, red and light tan, with sweeping lines that flow from one panel to the other, thus unifying the whole. Similarly, her “Barely Bauhaus” is a strong design of three interlocking bands of green, blue and red with white bars, all on a black back ground.

Jill Scholtens’ “Firewall” is similar in concept but with dramatically angular forms in tones of purple and orange on a black background.

In contrast to all the geometric abstractions in the front galleries is Nancy Erickson’s distinctive lioness in tones of purple and orange with line drawings of other animals stitched into the surface. It is cut into the shape of the animal and is a fierce counterpoint to all the restful geometric abstracts. I’ve been seeing Erickson’s work in Tacoma as long as I’ve been writing reviews, going back to the old Penny Lucas Gallery, and they are always distinctive in style.

The back gallery spaces feature mostly nature-based scenes in earth tones and a lot of bright yellow. One of the best of these is Ann Johnson’s “Between the Veins.” The “veins” are the stems of leaves in lyrical yellow line, and the blue and green leaves are like expressionistic swathes of paint applied wet-on-wet.

Melissa Lang’s “Stick Around” and “Walking Sticks” are made of dramatic bands of bright colors arranged in angular forms. In one they rest on fields of concentric circles made of fine green stitching, and in the other the stitching follows the shape of the negative shapes between the “sticks” in much the way Frank Stella’s  stripes followed the contour of his shaped canvases in his early stripe paintings.

Perhaps the most inventive works in the show are Carla Dipietro’s “Melting Glacier” and “Winter Silence,” both of which are three-dimensional with the glacier in one and snowflakes in a forest in the other depicted with tiny strips of cloth woven into a grid of fine thread above the surface where they cast shadows. These are strikingly lovely works.

Overall this is an outstanding show. Don’t miss it.

American Art Company, 12th NW Contemporary Art Quilt Exhibit, Tuesday-Friday 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., Saturday 10 am. to 5p.m., Third Thursday until 8 p.m., through Oct. 4, 1126 Broadway Plaza, Tacoma, 253.272.4327

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