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Monday, February 09, 2009

Light, paint and dreams at Ely House

John Slade Ely House Center for Contemporary Art
51 Trumbull Street, New Haven, (203) 624-8055
Inviting Abstraction
Through March 1, 2009.

There is a fine painting show at The John Slade Ely House. Inviting Abstraction features the work of Willard Lustenader, Megan Craig and K. Levni Sinanoglu. It isn't a show of abstract paintings in the usual sense, although Megan Craig's work comes close. These are works that flirt with abstraction in various ways despite having one foot planted strongly in different representational traditions.

The ostensible subjects of Willard Lustenader's oil paintings are still lifes of paper cutouts on tabletops. For the most part, the pieces of paper are folded in half with each half coming to a peak like the roof of a house. There is the sense of models of little communities created by Monopoly pieces. But the real subject of Lustenader's paintings, the star—at least to my eyes—is light. In works like "Cut-outs with 1 Red and 2 Yellow," "White Cut-outs, 1 Gray" and the luminous "Cut-outs, 3 White," Lustenader immerses himself in not only the way the geometric shapes cast a multiplicity of shadows on the reflective surface. It's like he wields a prism in his paintbrush, channeling the waves to the linen surface. It is the substance of light made visible while remaining true to its quality as light. Both light and lightness.

Megan Craig's subject would appear to be blunt abstraction. Her paintings are inspired by household objects—a chair, for example—but aren't in any way representational. (Craig has previously built up a fine body of work painting cityscapes.) But as with Lustenader, the real subject is something else again: the kinetic pleasure of applying paint to surface.

There could hardly be a stronger contrast than that between Craig's approach and that of Lustenader. Where Lustenader works with the precise delineation of a trained classicist, Craig covers her panels or canvas with broad brush strokes of boldly stated color. In Lustenader's paintings, colors bleed imperceptibly into other colors based on observed principles of physics. Not so with Craig's paintings. Shape abuts shape. "Jubilee" is made up of four panels abutting each other. Each briskly applied brush stroke is 2—3 inches wide. You can see the physical energy expended in the act of painting. The paint coming off the bristles interacts with the underlying color layers to generate lines of force.

K. Levni Sinanoglu's paintings document a private metaphysical universe. Surrealism is certainly a touchstone. There is the stuff of dreams: birds in flight, strange elongated trees, ghostly figures and inscrutable architecture. Perspective is skewed, imagery is layered on imagery in the way one archaeological site may rest on top of another. Although dreamlike, there is a sense of order, suggested by the delicate use of gridwork in a way that references architectural drawings.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

when is the new haven paint and clay club juried show ?

8:56 PM


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