Friday, September 30, 2016

14th Annual Juried Local Art Exhibition at Tacoma Community College

Photo: “The Salon – Blue Boy,” painting by William Turner, courtesy Tacoma Community College

Published in the Weekly Volcano, Sept. 29, 2016
“The Salon – Blue Boy,” painting by William Turner, all photos courtesy Tacoma Community College

The annual juried art exhibition at Tacoma Community College is usually a sampling of much of the best art created by South Sound artists. There is always admirable art to be seen, and this year is no exception; there are works worthy of admiration by such artists as Lois Beck, Susan Christian, Andrea L. Erickson, Fumiko Kimura, Becky Knold, Mary McCann, C.J. Swanson, David Noah Giles and many more — 41 total.
On the downside there is far too much that is trite and predictable — sweet little statuettes, nice but uninspired landscapes and safe abstractions.
Lois Beck’s little monoprint “Voodoo.” comprises a pair of concentric circles in soft, sandpapery, dull pink on a dark reddish field intersected by linear black shapes. It is simple and direct, with a sophisticated play of contrasting shapes and marks. It reminds me a lot of a drawing by Robert Motherwell I once saw, but much softer and less gutsy than any Motherwell.
Susan Christian’s “House Boat” is an abstract painting on old sticks that have been glued together. It has the weathered look of an old fence or barn or, befitting the title, a houseboat that has been left out of the water for generations. The rugged texture and dull colors and one little red splotch dead-center make for an attractive configuration of shapes and colors. What more can you ask of a painting?
"Geo Communication," acrylic on canvas by CJ Swanson
Marquita L. Hunt is showing two landscapes in acrylic on canvas, one much better than the other. The best of these is the smaller one, a thin, vertical painting of trees and a field of grass with a mountain in the background. The larger one, with similar subject matter, is not as well unified. The trees and grasses separate in this one like puzzle pieces that don’t quite fit; whereas the smaller one, despite dividing the space into two clearly separate areas, holds together as a single image. I like her autumnal colors and Cezannesque choppy brushstrokes.
Mary McCann’s “Precambrian Collision” is a dramatic mountain scene with low clouds, intense color and an enjoyable variety of brushstrokes and scratches. I saw this one earlier this year in a show in Olympia. I loved it then and still do, but in this setting it loses some I the power I saw in the smaller show.
Had I been selecting show winners, I would have given the top awards to David W. Murdach and William Turner.
Murdock is represented by two sculptural pieces, one free-standing and one a wall-hanging piece. Both are — if I may coin a phrase — steampunk rococo. Not a style I usually go for, but these pieces are funny, inventive, outlandishly decorative, and beautifully crafted. “Scalia, the Broccoli Man” is a relief sculpture of a floral pattern hanging on the wall and surrounded by gilded columns and pipes, and there is a gavel and a little man who looks to be made out of broccoli, with cartoonish white hands. His “Wall Street” is a free-standing carousel with music box. Instead of horses, this carousel has clowns, a pig, a bear, a silver frog, and Merlin the mythical magician. It is even more elaborately decorative than “Scalia.” It’s like Jeff Koons meets Gian Lorenzo Bernini.
Turner’s “The Salon – Blue Boy” also harkens back to rococo art, specifically Gains borough’s “Blue Boy” with a bit of Vermeer thrown in for good measure. But stylistically it is more like a Matisse interior scene, but grittier.

The Gallery at Tacoma Community College, noon to 5 p.m. Monday-Thursday, through Oct. 28, Tacoma Community College, Building 5A, entrance off South 12th Street between Pearl and Mildred, Tacoma, visitor parking in Lot G. 

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