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AUSTIN AMERICAN STATESMAN - MAY 2000

 

GALLERY WATCH
By Michael Barnes - American‑Statesman Arts Critic

 

REALITY IS THE FOCUS OF SPAZIO PAIRING

Felicitously named, "The Truth Dazzles Gradually" enlarges on the return of realism to artistic fashion. Not that fidelity to the visual world ever disappeared from the work of serious artists. but this exhibition at the newly opened _ Gallery demonstrates the revived interest among high‑dollar dealers and the collectors who pay their bills.

The work of two New Mexico‑based artists that owner Lytle Pressley spreads over the walls of his spacious, prim gallery ‑ devoted primarily to high‑design furniture ‑ are worthy of interest. Woody Gwyn treats landscapes and other subjects with narcotic clarity, while Geoff Laurence delves into uncomfortable psychological states through fleshy portraits.

It would be easy to dismiss some of Gwyn's temperas and acrylics, especially his facile homages to art historical, subjects, arranged like scattered postcards. Yet his eyes see beyond the most obvious patterns in nature, establishing a fresh optical middle distance. Creases in rocks 'assume personalities, snow and stone reveal minute repetitions, canyons cleave from bluffs like open wounds.

"Trees," for instance, creates a huge horizontal hand of energy from a leafy windbreak, split into rolling points of color. Gwyn often builds up the paint to depict the actual textures of stone or asphalt, but his vision grows particularly hypnotic when he uses a bridge or other structure as an artificial framing device. In "Tunnel I,". the shadowed underpass becomes atheatrical lens for his finely executed ruts, concrete striations and brushy repetitions.

Worth $85,000? That's for you to decide.

A feeling of dislocation lingers in Laurence's oils. His models disquiet as they emerge from darkish shadows or vague backgrounds into unflattering light. "Threshold" takes this sensation to the edge, as a woman appears, arms extended, disturbed by her own image in a mirror. In "Union," what I took to be a nearly full‑size bald man sits in a director's chair, legs crossed at the knee, hands gingerly posed, as he stares frankly at the viewer. As if that image were not disarming enough, the subject seems quite comfortable in a sleeveless floral dress ‑ taking Laurence's fondness for splotches of color to another level.

It took two trips to Spazio to make a case for these accomplished artists, but it was worth the return visit.

("The Truth Dazzles Gradually " runs through June Sat Spazio Gallery, 1214 W. Sixth St. For information, call 474‑5768.)

 
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