Sunday, June 20, 2010

Watercolor USA 2010 at Springfield Art Museum, Missouri

Watercolor USA 2010 opened on Friday, June 11 and continues through Sunday, August 8 at the Springfield Art Museum in Springfield Missouri.  This is the 49th continuous running of this prestigious exhibition.

Here is my joyful romp through this wonderful exhibition on opening night, offering up my standouts:  As you walk into the first gallery, there is a color blast from Cynthia Peterson’s Dish.  The large scale, 36 x 51,” takes it beyond mimetic photo-realism and into the revelatory world of abstract color.  Who says there isn’t enough humor in fine art?  Althea Jones Stopping to Paint Along the Way offers up artist as dunce (?) yet causes serious questions to arise as to how we look at and how we perceive things (the European labyrinth she depicts) that are right in front of us.  Stealing the show in the first gallery, Kathleen Jardine’s The Little Goddesses is necessarily large, 40 x 51” and rich in content.  There is a beautiful balance between the content – granddaughter perhaps, pet dog, and two small cultural icons – and the stunning, naturalistic rendering of the hand-crocheted tablecloth.  No photo tracing here.

A rich nugget of expressionistic paint handling ala Emil Nolde is Jane Carter’s Thelma Louise, benefiting from the density of acrylics.  Watercolor USA embraces all water media and though transparent watercolors held central stage throughout the show, experimental and mixed media work contributed toward a lively totality of contemporary works on paper in water media.  Next, I was drawn to a stunning, bold blast of old-school observational watercolors, a large palm tree painted with verve and coloristic bravura. I was happy to see it was painted by Alex McKibben, an emeritus professor from Miami of Ohio.  We juried shows together when I taught in the Cincinnati area and are featured in some private collections together.  Next to this was a spectral rendition of a tree by Margaret Huddy, Sycamore, 8:30 AM, April, revealing that a simple and majestic subject, a tree, has an infinite number of interpretive possibilities.  A humorous, trompe-l’oeil of men’s ties and post cards of three famous male portraits, Real Men, is a tour de force gouache by Margie Kuhn.  It uses the same scale, 22 x 30” and same trompe-l’oeil device as the big winner in Watercolor USA, Kent Addison.  Kent’s On Target with Jan Van Eyck #2172 is a color-rich and obsessively detailed watercolor balancing Old Master portrait with campy ephemera.  I hope his next step is to use art history in a tougher way with richer content and connections to the ephemera he chooses.

Cooling it down is Charles Novich’s Six Above, a small focused representation of a woman in a winter landscape that naturally draws you closer.  A truly Zen landscape is painted by Scott Zupanc, Trailway.  It is a virtuosic monochrome winter landscape.  In contrast, two summery scapes are Harold Gregor’s Above Weibring II  (#451) a small aerial view done in his newer, emotive style.  Some may not know that when Harold was painting on a hillside in Europe, he broke his right arm.  Undaunted, he painted with his left hand till his right arm was back in action quite some time later.  He is certainly my personal hero.  A waterscape of sorts is Ken Landon Buck’s Emily at Play, a beautiful
33 x 44” gouache on paper.  Here too, the scale offers up abstraction in good balance to representation.  The exhibition juror, Richard Ash III, emeritus professor in Wichita Falls, Texas included some solid abstract works, two of which are Stephen Vosilla’s A Journey Through Art, a big, raucous cartoon-style romp and Jason Mejer’s Repelling Herakles, a deft, involved mixed media abstraction that carefully avoided the decorative.

I did not go back the next day and re-think my decisions.  I like to stick to solid first impressions for a review like this.  Each exhibition bears the mark of its juror and of the state of water media on paper.  It is a testament to the Springfield Art Museum for wearing this august mantle for 49 years and we artists can all thank the museum Director, Jerry Berger, and his staff for continuing what Bill Landwehr began in 1962.  More information