Friday, October 24, 2008

Lenore Gray Review: Uncommon Ground

Almost by definition, artists are people with a knack for keeping in touch with their inner child. But some artists do it better — or at least more diligently — than others.

A case in point is Elizabeth Condon, a Brooklyn-based artist whose dreamy, semi-abstract paintings are currently on display at the Lenore Gray Gallery. In her artist’s statement, Condon cites both Doctor Seuss and Chinese scroll-paintings as artistic inspirations. In lesser hands, that might be a recipe for disaster. But Condon makes it work, deftly fusing the free-flowing, nonlinear perspective of Chinese painting with the free-flowing, nonlinear logic of the Seuss books.

In Two Places, for example, a series of recognizable images — a house, a tree, a river — float in a sea of softly pulsing colors. The result feels like a dream or memory suddenly, if fleetingly made visible. Other works evoke fantastic landscapes, whether it’s a night sky filled with glowing stars and planets (Dispersion) a fairy-tale forest filled with wisps of sea-green fog (The Woods) or a swirling garden scene (Night Flowers) worthy of another age-defying artist: Paul Klee.

The show’s other contributor, Jerry Mischak, also has a Seussian streak. Indeed, Mischak, who teaches sculpture at the University of Rhode Island, is best known for using duct tape, a material that he can coax into almost any shape from sleekly geometric to sensuously organic.

It’s a talent that is on full display in City in Balance (Let’s Share a Place), a large duct-tape sculpture in which a miniature city seems to sprout from the limbs of a gnarled tree. Though the message — something along the lines of “Wouldn’t it be nice if we could all live in harmony with each other and with nature” — is serious, Mischak’s approach is more playful than political.

Through Nov. 6 at the Lenore Gray Gallery, 15 Meeting St., Providence. Hours: Mon.-Fri. 10-4:30, or by appt. Contact: (401) 274-3900.
Bill Van Siclen

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