Cities are mysterious places. Some, like Houston or Atlanta, are utilitarian, while others, like Venice or New Orleans, are mythic. Both can inspire artists and writers. The Dutch-American artist Mondrian reduced the bright lights of Broadway in New York City to colorful abstraction. Italian author Italo Calvino's novel Invisible Cities deals with patterns of life in apocryphal places, and American author Christopher Alexander's essay "A Pattern Language" describes the rhythms of movement in homes and cities as a kind of symbolic yet poetic language. Regina Scully's new paintings touch on such things in a strictly visual and intuitive way; you can sense in their intricate and rhythmic flow a broader world of ideas and associations while appreciating their visual merits.
Unlike her earlier, more recognizably architectural paintings, these read as almost pure abstraction while evoking the dynamism of the human hive. Excavation No. 3 (pictured) offers the most representational approximation of a built environment even as it recalls vintage sci-fi illustrations of post-apocalyptic apartment towers, or abstract album jackets from early 1960s modern jazz LPs, a realm of Sputnik, Coltrane and Philip K. Dick. In its intricate maze of loosely articulated forms, there is a suggestion of catacombs erupting into an ad hoc Tower of Babel.
Excavation No. 11 is quite the opposite, a sleek interweaving of undulating blue and white gridlike shapes, of shimmering silver mazes flowing like the wavy titanium roofs of Frank Gehry's outrageous museum and hotel buildings, or surreal science fiction fantasies culminating in cascades of shiny reflections. Scully extrapolates such forms into an oscillating urban environment where no human presence is seen yet the unleashed energy of the human horde is implicit, perhaps a post-cybernetic Shanghai of the future where neurons and synapses crackle into metallic forms and functions. But Scully says these are all extrapolated from the cities of the present, a realm where "objects, spaces and events collide and detach." The result is eloquent visual music, a meditation on "fragmentation and unity, devastation and rejuvenation."
Excavations: New Paintings by Regina Scully
Through Sept. 2
Heriard-Cimino Gallery, 440 Julia St. 525-7300; www.heriard-cimino.com