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Perfect Balance

Art Review


Published May 10, 2006 at 4:00 a.m.


EXHIBIT: "Spontaneous Acts: Art Out of Line," brush paintings, wall sculptures and calligraphic paintings and prints by Lois Eby, Nori Morimoto and Tari Swenson. West Branch Gallery & Sculpture Park, Stowe. Through May 28.

ARTWORK: "Morimoto Light 5" by Nori Morimoto

"Sun rays strike the frost-filled windowpane and my newest creation is born." That haiku-esque sentence appears in sculptor Nori Morimoto's artist statement in the three-person show "Spontaneous Acts: Art Out of Line," currently at West Branch Gallery in Stowe. His co-exhibitors are painter Lois Eby and Tari Swenson, who is a painter, printmaker and co-owner of the gallery. Inspired by the Far East, this is a wonderful show of completely original creations by American artists who respect, rather than simply mimic, Asian visual art.

Eby makes calligraphic paintings with intense hues and varied weights of line, combining the delicacy of classic sumi-e works with Kandinsky's approach to composition. Spaces between her brushstrokes are as important as the strokes themselves, and the airiness of the paintings focuses attention on the moment when brush danced over paper. Eby's titles are descriptive of that sensitivity.

"Dancing Improvisation IV" is a 32-by-22-inch mixed-media-on-paper abstraction that combines elegant ink lines, colored pencils and blue, orange and red acrylic paint. Eby's pen lines string the roughly diagonal composition together, making it seem to dangle over the picture plane.

"Brushed Moment II" is a similarly scaled painting on paper. Here Eby's blue hues are complemented by a small, orange circle and a judicious use of yellow. She executed this work with broad brushstrokes and fewer fine lines.

Swenson has also been influenced by sumi-e and calligraphic works, but her paintings and monoprints here employ wider swaths of ink. The 12-by-18-inch "It Takes Two" contains a vertical smear of black ink at left and a horizontal one at right. Swenson's artist statement describes how her compositions utilize the Buddhist principle of "Heaven, Earth, Man" to create images in just a few strokes. In "It Takes Two," pale green and red drips accompany the broader horizontal and vertical swaths.

Swenson's "Spring Blue" is spontaneously executed in blue oil and black sumi ink on rice paper, which has been mounted onto a 35-by-28-inch canvas. She seems to have used only about 10 strokes, yet her lines fill the space with bold activity -- again capturing the moment with a Zen sensibility.

Born in China in 1931, Morimoto is a nationally known sculptor who moved with his family to New York in the mid-1960s. There he apprenticed with the revered Japanese Abstract Expressionist painter Genichiro Inokuma and was an associate of Japanese-American sculptor/architect Isamu Noguchi.

Morimoto's "White A-Z" is a 19-by-38-by-3-inch series of 18 wall-mounted glass squares; etched and sandblasted abstract designs appear on the undersides of the glass. The designs are made up of lines, dots and pits that take on a pale-blue color as seen through the glass. "White A-Z" is a brilliant piece, lyrical by virtue of the designs and true to the unique properties of glass.

"Organic Lantern" and "Morimoto Light 5" are both sculptural and functional works in wood -- perhaps a natural medium for this artist, whose name translates "on the edge of the woods." The former is a 32-inch vertical column of Douglas fir, from which light emanates through a series of thin lines carved into its upper left corner. "Morimoto Light 5" is a dramatic wall-mounted piece in natural ash and rice paper. The curving 47-by-14-by-6-inch form is made up of slats of wood backed by rice paper. Illumination from within results in a "light sculpture."

Time is an important element in the two-dimensional works by artists Swenson and Eby, as each brushstroke captures -- and represents -- movement. Conversely, Morimoto's sculptures and architectonic lights are timeless designs constructed with natural materials. All three artists bring to the North Country a harmonious balance of East and West.