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Review: Paintings by Deborah Pelias and Paul Tarver 

D. Eric Bookhardt on new shows at Boyd Satellite Gallery and Cole Pratt Gallery

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There is still truth to the old adage "Seeing is believing," but it also is true that technology filters much of what we see and how we see it. Digital devices render images as pixels, but pictures on a printed page employ the larger dots of the halftone process. Abstract painter Deborah Pelias just lets dots be dots in her new Sanity canvases, but not all dots are created equal. Pelias is all about process as her canvases evolve from layers of paint that are applied and sanded as dots emerge, recede and change shapes in works like Prototype (pictured), in which they assume ambiguously trippy patterns. Confronted with such dots, our eyes search for the images we have come to expect, yet they remain elusive, so sightings of saints, Elvis or Marilyn Monroe sometimes occur even if no such miraculous visitations were intended. Some ancient peoples, including Hindus and Mayans, hypothesized that matter arose from the dance of shapeshifting atoms, and Pelias revels in the analogous ambiguity of her emerging dot patterns. Pelias says, "This is where the magic happens ..." as the painting begins to reveal "a voice of its own."

  Can a leopard change its spots? Maybe not, but in ancient Mayan religion, jaguars were believed to be divine beings who could assume almost any form. Paul Tarver's Jaguar Empire paintings are based on the rare wall paintings that still exists in surviving Mayan temples. But his focus is on their overall aura rather than the minutiae of their details, hence they are impressionistic tributes to a lost and, for its time, advanced civilization. Tarver employs mottled brushwork as "a subtle homage" to the jaguar's spotted fur, but it is his distillation of forms that reminds us of the Mayan influence on design ranging from art deco and high modernism to the postmodernism of 20th-century architecture. — D. Eric Bookhardt

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