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CWWYX Reviewed by Mary Gilkerson in The Free Times

Issue #23.04 :: 01/26/2010 – 02/01/2010
Artists Present 10th Annual Group Show

A review of Winter Exhibition, on view at Gallery 80808 through Feb. 2.

BY MARY BENTZ GILKERSON

This year’s Winter Exhibition at Gallery 80808/Vista Studios is the tenth annual one that Stephen Chesley, Mike Williams and Edward Wimberly have held as a group, the eighth with David Yaghjian. The annual exhibit reflects the close working relationship that the four have.

Mike Williams, Detail (acrylic on linen, 2009).

Williams and Chesley have been making welded metal sculptures for some time. At times, there are close similarities in how the two deal with constructing formal shape relationships. Both use balance and counterbalance, point and counterpoint to build compositions in three-dimensional space.

Some viewers might not have picked up on the strong relationship between Chesley’s abstract sculptures and his more realistic paintings. His Kline/Zen pieces, hanging as a body in the main gallery, provide an obvious bridge between the two bodies of work. All on paper, the Kline/Zen works explore simple figure-and-ground relationships juxtaposed with strong, simple gestural marks. In essence, they are two-dimensional forms of his sculptures.

But they also reflect the basic shape relationships that form the underlying structures of Chelsey’s landscape pieces. This is more obvious in some paintings than others. Twilight, Sandbars is a small, square composition in which the landscape elements have been reduced to fairly flat areas of color, with the value and intensity of the colors providing the sense of depth. But the same sort of interplay is present in the more representational River, Twilight.

Stephen Chesley, Island (oil, 2009-10)

Williams’ newer paintings still feature the fish images for which he is known, but they are often less gestural than in the past, with more tightly structured geometric forms. Glossary II is more about the fish as a shape and a visual structure than about a form moving through water. The more structured forms create a flatter space activated by the rhythm created by the color patterns.

Some of those same linear patterns appear in his landscapes describing the lush vegetation of the swamps. The tree trunks and their reflections in Early in the Morning interlock in the same sort of diagonal structures. Enlarge a section of this painting and the geometric structure of Glossary appears, simply with more gestural strokes.

Yaghjian and Wimberly both explore more existentialist themes with a leavening of humor. Wimberly’s surreal juxtapositions of familiar objects create pieces that pull the viewer into a conversation that does not have a definitive answer. A freshly plowed field is peopled by an odd assortment of figures in Evening on the Farm. Raggedy Ann dances under the evening sky with a ballerina doll, watched by two monkeys in an armchair. The Raggedy Ann doll has appeared in Wimberly’s work for several years now. Her adventures seem to be part of a heroine’s journey in the Jungian sense. As playful as the figures seem, there is usually an element of reality, or the threat of it, that separates these from whimsical illustration.

Painting by Edward Wimberly

Yaghjian continues his Everyman series, pieces that explore the tragi-comic nature of life with a mythic edge. He has added a new dimension to the work, though — literally. This year, he has wooden sculptures derived from cardboard cutouts. Working in a sort of low relief and taking the same figures as their subject, the sculptures are a natural progression from his paintings and prints. He has managed to retain a good deal of the freshness and gestural quality of the original cutouts, which can stand on their own as finished works.

Yaghjian also has a new series of paintings that focus on very simplified tree forms, usually only two or three in a composition. Like Chesley, he emphasizes a simplified figure-and-ground relationship in these pieces. The paint has gotten thinner, applied in washes more like watercolor, with the same quick gestural marks that he uses in his monotypes.

Looking for the individual growth of the artists is part of the interest of an annual event like this. But another is finding the links not only between the different bodies of each artists’ work but also among the artists.

The 10th annual Winter Exhibition will be up through Feb. 2 at Gallery 80808 (808 Lady St.) Hours are Mon-Sat 1-5pm. Call 252-6134 for more information.

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