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Orange and White and Compound Eyes

Story by Michael Helsem

Terrell James - Plainsong

Terrell James - Plainsong, 2004
oil on linen - 94 x 60 inches

Painters' palettes are like fingerprints; and if you could map all of them you'd discover strange neighborings, inexplicable gaps. There are painters who'd rather die than not be able to use a certain color, and painters who hardly look at what tube they reach for.

Even the most hardened Realist has a palette, and picks what to paint accordingly. One time i had a picture that kept making me buy new colors i'd never tried before, like an exorbitant mistress...

I was curious about Terrell James (at Gerald Peters Gallery), mainly because i'd never seen anything like her palette — offwhite, orange, a bit of furtive turquoise. Maybe late de Koonings when he might have had help by someone who didn't know thing one about painting??

The brushwork itself isn't terribly distinctive — sketchy Zen, more pondered than reworked; and then half covered up at the last, as if on the way back to gesso white. In the best one, Plainsong, various traceries of grayish brown wind lyrically across the emptiness. Near the top there's a scrofulous outbreak of deep plum. The combination is compelling.

* * *

It used to be that the Texas Visual Arts Association hung its members' show right in the walking space of North Park Mall. Now they've managed a storefront there, with less distraction but worse lighting. The art is about what you'd expect; i can usually find a thing or two to like if i try. This time there's three.

Alan Cobb - In The Woods

Alan Cobb - In The Woods
courtesy TVAA webmaster Beth VanDeventer

Alan Cobb's woodcut In the Woods uses the spatial ambiguity of a pure black and white rendition of a three dimensional image, to great effect. Dawn Waters Baker perfectly captures the melancholy of a winter sunset in her almost monochromatic oil, Sky. And Hazel Morris, in Midnight Bloom, creates a very creepy mood with watercolor on black paper, and silver lines.

* * *

At the Pan American Gallery in May occurred a juxtaposition almost more piquant than any of the art there — a sculptor and a painter-turned-constructivist, who both create objects from immense numbers of minutely-differing units.

Rusty Scruby - The Wall (detail)

You've undoubtedly seen those computer-generated photomosaics that create an overall image out of separate small pictures; Rusty Scruby comes to this barely-an-artform with a mixed background of music theory and aerospace engineering, and the result is breathtaking.

These blurry, vibrating renditions of ordinary scenes are very likely the closest we will ever come to looking through an insect's compound eyes. Having effaced both the subtle mathematical journey and the immense physical effort of cutting up and assembling thousands of small squares, what's left is pure pattern: the ecstasy of a universe composed of nothing but vibrational energy. In image itself has been left behind; only the hypnotic faint gradations of shadow, in regular undulations, disturb its huge blankness.

Janet Tyson

I had sort of become aware of the Lego Art movement via the Internet, life-sized dinosaurs and such, in the same way i marvelled at that glowing rabbit with jellyfish DNA. Janet Tyson is not as ambitious, though she does go so far as to incorporate vintage Lego in now-defunct varieties. A Zen rock garden, with Legoized rocks, shows more wit than profundity. And Untitled (Clear) bears a startling resemblance to a real geode.

The sculptor in me might prefer to smash the plastic blocks before using them, but this is not that different from Fridge Magnet Poetry; and who knows what masterpieces might come out of it all, someday?


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