Explore Howard: Visual arts: HCC exhibit

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Exhibition Photos

By Mike Giuliano

Posted 1/27/11

Two artists go to sea, but come back with very different pictures in the new exhibit at Howard Community College’s Rouse Company Foundation Gallery.

Marc Boone has an abstract take on this watery subject, while Michael Sastre is selectively representational. Their side-by-side installation of oil paintings works well.

Boone is operating within a contemporary tradition of all-over abstraction. In “Violet Sky Gray Green Sea,” the composition is schematically divided into three horizontal bands. Although there isn’t any conventional detail, the format gives a primal sense of a water-topped sea.

One characteristic of this and other Boone paintings is that the paint application has a chunky quality. The paint is applied in a solid and borderline-brusque manner, giving the resulting paintings a weighty appearance. If the paintings avoid seeming too simple or quasi-monochromatic, it’s because most of them have underlayers of other colors peeking through the dominant colors in those horizontal bands.

Boone often varies the relative width and dominance of the horizontal bands. In “Dark Blue Sky Pink Sand,” for instance, the sky is huge and the sand below is a relatively narrow band.

Although such paintings have as many differences as similarities with the variations in bands and blocks of color associated with that master of color field painting, Mark Rothko, viewers are free to contemplate some of the formal and meditative similarities.

It’s encouraging that Boone does not content himself to experiment with minor variations on an established format. Sometimes he, er, stirs the water a bit.

In “Churning Sea,” he avoids the horizontal banding completely and instead has upswept, green-outlined, little blue waves crashing against each other. There is still a keen sense of pictorial order, but here it seems like the stormy sea is on the verge of chaotic flow.

The second artist, Sastre, has tightly cropped paintings that feature what is on and around small rafts. There are no people on these tiny boats and the boats themselves seem so slapped together that you might find yourself thinking they belong to desperate refugees who no longer occupy them.

Sastre’s numerically titled “Rafter Series” amounts to a narrative in which you’re only given suggestive clues. Bananas sit on one raft, a fish has somehow ended up on the floor of another and a seagull perches on the side of a third.

The absence of a direct human presence is rather haunting, and it also seems a bit ominous owing to the sharks, fish and other sea creatures submerged or partly breaking through the surface of the surrounding water.

In terms of his painterly approach, Sastre favors crisply depicted rafts and visibly raised definitional lines for the waves. Even though the fish tend to float in and out of focus, the overall compositions rely on assertive colors and sharp distinctions.

Sastre also exhibits glass mosaics, including “Fishing Boy,” in which the young subject engages in that activity thanks to the blue and green glass shards used to depict him. Other glass and tile mosaics present appetizing images of crabs and other seafood.

These are cheerful images, to be sure, but they’re decorative and don’t prompt the prolonged consideration that the paintings do.

Meanwhile, over in HCC’s Art Department Gallery, Myungsook Ryu Kim has an exhibit of acrylic paintings titled “Forgotten Forest.” Earth tones and incised lines suggest ancient vegetation that now remains in a fossil-evocative way.

One especially nice painting is “White Winter,” in which ghostly white bamboo either grows or is fossilized against a pale blue background.

via Explore Howard: Visual arts: HCC exhibit.

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