The foremost private art gallery in Rhode Island is celebrating its 20th anniversary in fine style. In 20 Years, the Virginia Lynch Gallery, that magnet for impressive work at Tiverton Four Corners, is presenting submissions by 60 artists who have shown there.
Some of the usual suspects are missing, such as Dale Chihuly, Ruth Dealy, and Richard Fleischner. But by and large, the considerable talent that has earned the gallery its reputation is well represented.
Joseph Norman, whom the gallery launched onto the national scene, has a couple of pieces. The lithograph "Chicago Tenements II" (1993) reprises his early work, while "Spanish Still Life" (1996), a black vortex superimposed on a still background, demonstrates the dynamism that he has grown into.
A couple of Bunny Harveyís vibrant landscapes are featured. "Summer Curves" (2000) inventively incorporates multiple small rectangles, reminding us how snapshots are always components of a larger picture. Speaking of reminders, three of Tom Sgourosís "Remembered Landscape" paintings are here, exquisitely composed and balanced with both shape and color, showing that blindness can, wondrously, enhance vision.
A Lynch retrospective would not be complete without a signature hat sculpture by Jay Coogan or work by Howard Ben Tré. So there is Cooganís "Left Brain, Right Brain" (2002), with holes on the left half, whimsically connoting the limitations of our cognitive side. Sculptor Tré has a study of one of his massive pieces, heavy on the sea-green glass he loves so much.
In terms of regulars and the history of the gallery, perhaps the most significant work is the oil painting by Molly Luce, the first artist Lynch ever showed. "Dear In the Woods" depicts a buck in flight toward trees, the play on words providing wry counterpoint to the veneration of the animal, literally suspended in light.
Some art world household names are on hand, such as Robert Motherwell, represented by a print from his "Spanish Series." Chuck Close has included one of his many self-portraits; the one at Lynch was done in 2001, with little Twombly-esque squiggles rather than his more familiar pointillistic dots. Known primarily as an illustrator, David Macaulay has a pen-and-ink drawing of a colonnade and courtyard, and a 1981 pastel. The latter doesnít neglect the architectural, as we expect from him, but the portion of a house in "English Landscape" is all but obscured by surrounding greenery, which Macaulay delights in accenting with other colors.
Lynch, who was 88 last month, has always loved discovering and championing new talents. The gallery office is a place of honor for work by several recent and future featured artists. There is one of Katherine Meyerís large charcoal drawings that pull us into outdoor sights, in this case a patch of light framed by trees in "Glen." Across from that is a marvelous abstract that would be overwhelming if it werenít so modest in size (11"x14"): Jules Olitskiís "Romance Touch, Red" (2002), acrylic on canvas, makes a somber dark spot in the center come alive, surrounded by three yellow daubs for compositional company, all framed and held together by a loosely brushed red border; considerable depth is established, as well as a serenity that doesnít rely on symmetry.
Olitski is getting a one-person show in Tiverton in September, as is Christopher Benson in October. Several of Bensonís lushly textured and geometric abstractions are featured in 20 Years, demonstrating that he can easily fill a gallery without boring us. In August, Wolf Kahn will have a one-person show. He is represented by "Dark On Dark" (2001), a pastel that will stop you in your steps. I donít know which aspect fascinated me more, the nearly-black foliage that nevertheless pops out against the black scrubbing of a sky, or the startling green beneath the line of trees, a chartreuse that jolts what could be a somber mood back into life. I certainly want to see a roomful of this artistís work.
This vast exhibition, filling two floors, is far too dense with first-rate pieces to do justice in a review. I canít mention more than a sampling of my favorites.
There is Eric Dennardís untitled and undated acrylic on canvas: a bold red and golden yellow abstract, with angular but gestural interlocking swaths that accomplish remarkable tension by barely touching.
There are Helen Sturges Nadlerís three seascape watercolors that show how substantial and difficult the medium can be in capturing snapshot instants with ink-brush spontaneity. (That Cleve Greyís two delicate "Interplay" abstractions are not acknowledged on the labels here to be watercolors is a head-shaker.)
And Josie Richmond Arkinsís "Farming Patterns" (2003), oil on board, uses the tension-building devices of Expressionism for an effect thatís anything but conventionally pastoral.
It wonít be difficult for you to find your own favorites, no matter your preferences. 20 Years is a fine survey of two decades of the diverse and superb taste of Virginia Lynch.
The show continues through June 29.
Issue Date: June 20 - 26, 2003
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