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Construction, Representation and Action at Marcia Wood
BY DONALD LOCKE
Most Atlanta galleries have their own individual style and flavor,
so to speak: the Bohemian garage ambience of Lansdell Galleries, the intimate
connoisseur's den at Duncan Connelly, the modernist hi-tech style of Bender
Fine Art (formerly Art With An Attitude), the elegance of Marcia Wood. The word
elegant may be overworked just now, but it will have to do one more time to
describe her current exhibition of New Abstraction.
The show has been selected and hung with such delicatesse that in spite of oneself, the viewer finds his pace being slowed down so that the entire space is taken in for easy viewing. She successfully avoids that common gallery disaster, "visual inflation" -- too much art for the available mental space.
"Representing the Construction or Constructing the Representation: The Quantum of Action in Abstract Art" is a show about the continuing evolution of 20th century abstraction -- a genre which, since the mid-'70s, art journalists, art critics, and art historians have told us had died out and been replaced by narrative, figural art. The historical truth is that artistic styles, once they have risen to the surface, never disappear; they merely evolve to fit the needs of the current generation. It is always a surprise to discover that highly creative artists, using the same old medium of paint and canvas, continue to find new arrangements and new formal strategies which would have shocked the original American Abstract artists of 50 years ago.
Of the five exhibitors, Frances Barth is not, strictly speaking, an abstractionist -- at least not in the classic sense of being a manipulator of non-recognizable forms. But the non-linear discontinuity of her composition of barely recognized fragments of real-life forms, in a painting like L Rides West, has the same kind of off-beat construction most of the other artists use.
Arron Sturgeon's three paintings are a catalogue of painterly effects. The paint is poured on, combed, smeared, smoothed, scratched, scraped, dragged, scumbled and glazed. Yet because of the control exerted by the artist there is the luxury of profusion rather than the chaos of confusion in these paintings. His color overall is very reticent, tending toward a blond tonality; but this allows him the exquisite pleasure of placing certain more or less loud accents against the quieter desert landscape. These accents can be scraggy white clouds of paint, a sharply defined red corpuscular form, or simply a piece of black paint put down to disturb the peace of its surroundings. It is easy to see why his work has become so sought after.
At 78, Yoshishige Furukawa is a grand master. His command of his idiom goes back to when he did his B.F.A. in 1943, at the Tokyo Academy of Fine Arts in Japan. He came to New York in 1963 to take part in an exhibition and has been there ever since. His works on paper are small, 12 inches by 14 inches, in oil-stick and oil paint on paper. His method is to work two or more colors into a luminous field against which he places sharp-edged forms of flat color. It is very simple indeed. But the shimmer of light on the ground and the extreme crispness of the sharp-edged, flat shapes can only come from 60 years on the job.
David Urlan and Lydia Dona are two artists who seem to be in much demand as part of the mid-'30s generation of collectors. Urlan works on a flat ground, broken here and there by irregular patches of color, on top of which he places a wandering ribbon of red paint. There is no pictorial logic in these paintings, such as can be deduced from Kurukawa's studies on paper, but it is this very waywardness and off-beat nature of the design that holds the viewer. Lydia Dona's surfaces can also be described as deliberately anti-classical, introducing a list of abstract shapes, and placing a white outline drawing of a motor-engine in the mix-up. Her piece elaborately titled Viral Motors and the Nerves of Architecture, 1998, does not so much break the rules of classical composition as ask where the rules are, and while you are searching, she is busy making viral motors and nerves of architecture.
"Representing the Construction or Constructing the Representation: The Quantum of Action in Abstract Art" continues at Marcia Wood Gallery, 1198 N. Highland Ave., through June 13. Gallery hours are Tuesday-Saturday 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Call 404-885-1808.