A Cool Summer Garden
by J R Compton
My batteries needed recharging. And I knew just thing thing. A summer group show that included, I remembered, some Norman Kary constructions. 42 artists participated in the exhibition, but Norm is whose art I was after when I visited A Cool Summer Garden recently. The exhibition was at Edith Baker Gallery in upper Oak Lawn through August.
Along the way, there were several delightful surprises, like Brian Bosworth's directly simple and inexpensive flower constructions hanging over the reception desk and two large, new works by Pamela Nelson.
I was always a huge fan of Pamela's folky early work — often festooned with buttons and bits of flea market items, mirrors, etc., all in bright, joyfull colors and overt, naïve patterning. Then, when she got tired of all that a few years ago and turned serious into abstract expressionism, I lost touch with her and her art. The joy was missing.
Now, twice on the walls at Edith Baker Gallery in this refreshing summer revue, Pamela's large works harken back to those earlier, happier and funkier, folksy colors, shapes and patterns. There's even tiny, round mirrors scattered about, as if the artist is once again acknowledging some awareness of her self — and ours. These large, cut-out constructions echo her funky roots while manifesting a serious, not entirely subtle maturity. I hope they sell; I admire the direction.
Another bright flower painting at the top of the still bouncy stairs near the back of the gallery captured my attention on the way to discoveing more Kary constructions. The colors within Bruno Andrade's The Magic Within explode out. They are not at all timid. And they brighten the cool loft space.
Much else in this show delighted and surprised me. A small Lui Liu portrait on the kitchen side of the long, back side wall is especially memorable, although I didn't photograph it while I was there. Then, I thought it too simple, direct. Now I want to see it again.
Any and everything by Roger Winter stands out. I recognized his inimitable style in an old, vertical, late 50s painting leaning against something toward the back of the gallery. And several of his exquisite, dabbly-paint wide-screen landscapes hung here and there in anticipation of his coming show, which I'm looking forward to.
A lumpy, too-chaste Deborah Ballard naked lady Feng Shui fountain was delicious in color and gently flowing water, perfect for a cool summer garden. And two largish Laurie Kaplowitz paintings, one a self portrait, the other a still life of flowers, lilts of simple shapes and complex but gentle emotions whose tones stay in my mind. I've noticed her work in several shows lately, and I hope to notice more.
After being so often under-represented in group shows at Edith Baker, this time, at least a half dozen of Norm's pieces hang in different parts of the gallery. I was delighted to make each new discovery.
Norman Kary's depthy, deft constructions are precious in the better sense of that word. They probably mean something to him, but the sense is not often evident. What is, is a sensitive, surreality and tasteful interplay of enigmatic shapes and photographs — sometimes cut from old magazines, textures and natural colors. Often a pendulum protrudes frontally to dangle beneath, lending a tentative balance.
Sometimes a tiny, branch-like twig echoes other shapes or adds a delecate contrast. A lot of shape-echoing occurs on in these varied works. But there's lots of other stuff happening in his tiny microcosms that I just can't put my fingers on or my brain into.
I know I should be able to say more intelligent and inteligible things about Kary's work, but it escapes me. I delight in seeing them and letting their miniature ambiguities eddy through like a cool, dense summer breeze still wafting distant rain. They're simple, gentle magic for my mind, and I always feel better seeing them.