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A Sky Full of Crowes

Visitors at the Irving Art Center lost in all the colorful Crowes

The James Crowe retrospective that opened September 11 at the Irving Arts Center is crammed wall to wall and floor to ceiling with what appears to be a lifetime of art, although it spans just the last fifteen years of this amazing and prolific artist's work.

See the listing in the Calendar for more information.

 

New York Sting

New York Sting, 1993 - collage,
mixed media on canvas board - 1o x 8 inches

 

flat but visually dimensional ...

 

Before he became an artist, Jim had a long and successful career as an interior designer, and it wasn't until he retired that his imagination turned full-time toward making art.

 

collage

Eye Sea, 1993 - collage, acrylic on canvas,
16 x 12 inches

 

elements lift off the page ...

 

Except four wood heads Jim carved in 1948, when he was 16, all 234 (!) pieces in the crowded but fascinating show were created since 1989. The main gallery on MacArthur Boulevard is gill filled with too many variations of what are often too-similar pieces.

 

unidentified, #179 not on the price list

 

toying with dimension ...

 

Though neither the exhibition nor this story's metaphoric progression is strictly chronological, we follow the artist's exploration from essentially two-dimensional, flat paintings and collages, through many minor branches of a third D and finally out into the sky full of fully three-dimensional flying Crowe mobiles that made his art so immensely popular by the end of his life.

 

intense colors

Arcs & Yellow, 1993 - collage, acrylic on board
14 x 12 inches

 

intensifying colors ...

 

Tentatively at first, elements project forward from their muted but densely textured backgrounds. The colors intensify, then both colors and shapes simplify, begin to lift off the page and grow more boldly dimensional.

 

red wing

untitled - 1991 - wood, paper pulp, copper 
21 x 18 inches

 

stand up on their own ...

 

Finally, the fully three-dimensional pieces stand up on their own, smooth and unify, grow more lyrical and turn toward brighter, simpler colors. They stand higher, begin to lift up and eventually fly away.

 

mirror bird

Silver Flight, 2004 - stainless steel
18 x 22 x 6 inches (reflecting portions of the gallery)

 

lift off the ground ...

 

Unfortunately, James Crowe's mature work, the smooth, shiny, elegantly simple stabiles and mobiles — usually comprising flat, polychromed wood or fabricated metal — that carried the well liked artist to the peak of his career are so densely hung in this show, it's difficult to see any one of them.

 

gold drops

may be Summer Storm, 2001
painted wood, aluminum rod
180 x 40 inches unassembled

 

ascend toward heaven ...

 

What could have been an elegant orchard of high flying sylphs among cubic yards of restful negative space, is instead a dense jungle of confusing elements gyring and swinging slowly in artificial interior breezes, a cacophony of colors and shapes.

 

big silver

may be Angel Wings, 2004
57 x 55 inches

 

sprout angel wings ...

 

The work occupying Jim's imagination in the days and weeks just before his death were large-scale, iridescently colored, gossamer sails (below) floating in the space under the barrel vault of the big Irving Arts Center gallery.

 

big sail

untitled, 2004 - fabric, aluminum rod, 15 x 20 feet diameter

 

and sail away.

 

Several of the visitors who came through while I was photographing said it was their favorite piece, although I've always preferred the gentle curves and dance of the more sophisticated shapes in his mobiles. If he had lived, he probably would have made many minor but important changes in the sails.

 

Many of the pieces are for sale, which may be why there are so many here. For inquiries, call the Irving Arts Center at 972 252-7558

See As The Crowes Fly, James' DARts Member Page,
and James Crowe's Wake to see more of Jim's work.

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