Fresh Paint
Tuesday, November 16, 2004
Cleaning Out the Purse, Part Two
A show called "Imaginary Landscapes" at Melanee Cooper in River North perked my ears and got my nose twitching even before I found the insanely perfect parking place right across the street, and was looking forward to wildly imaginative leaps in paint or sensual ramblings down historical or personal narrative roads. Instead, I find the immensely decorative and lovely Cheryl Warrick and the truly awful Laura Bowman.

Bowman's work is slick and witless, of the school that if one overly finished painting of a burnt umber landscape with burnt umber trees in a yellowish ochre sky is good, then 30 paintings is even better. They offend no one, and would look good in any motel chain's lobby. And so enough said.

Cheryl Warrick's work is good, beautifully executed works on paper where squares of flowers, landscapes, pieces of text and wallpaper, childishly drawn "house" figures, and miscellaneous design elements are put together in quilt-like assemblages. As I say, lovely to look at and admire, utterly pleasant. I shouldn't rail at them because they're something I'd love to hang in my kitchen, or maybe my bathroom, where I'd look at them every day and enjoy it. Perhaps this just says something about where I think art isn't these days. Maybe I just want to see some backbone, something beyond the decorative.

Maybe I'm saying something about what is lacking in my own work, hmmmm???

Anyway, the show is up through Dec. 31.

Moving right along, to a collection that has if not backbone, then fists. Warning, epileptics and those with op-art phobias need not look at the Zg Gallery's showing of Molly Briggs' hot pink tree paintings, so intense they practically eat you alive. Briggs opens your head, sticks in her hands, and plays with your brain in these paintings. Most seem to be patterns of trees and branches silhouetted against other trees and branches, silhouetted against others, in shades of cream and gray painted on wood, so that the colors bounce against each other and literally move in front of you. And they're gorgeous, too.

I don't know whether it's good art, but holy cow, is it fun to look at. The card says the show ended Nov. 13, but maybe they have a few around. They will clear your sinuses. This is an artist to watch, and I usually don't like stuff like this.

Finally, a very classic show at Ann Nathan (ending about now, though she usually has a lot of this artist's work around, since he's from Berlin), Ruprecht von Kaufmann's paintings in a show called "Soul Siberia." His last show at the gallery, 2 years ago, featured strange people underwater, subways, swimming pools, sometimes murky paintings. His painting has much improved since then (and they weren't bad, don't get me wrong). He has just aged a great deal, since he's now 30 and has opened his field of vision quite beautifully to go along with his fine draftsmanship. Each work displayed is a diptych, an individual struggling against something on the left, perhaps, and a related expanse of emptiness, sky or water perhaps, on the right. Diptychs are always interesting, since the whole point is to entice a dialog between the two pieces, a comparison, without any particular resolution.

Anyway, I like them, more than his previous work. A few studies and drawings are also thrown in, which I like too.

Back in a bit with Part Three, and then I'll stuff everything back in the purse just in time to check out the next set of shows.

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