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Take Two

Art Review: Joan Curtis and Richard Weis, Furchgott Sourdiffe Gallery, Shelburne. Through June 17.


Published May 21, 2008 at 12:14 p.m.

"Rock ?Collection Study No. 2" by Joan Curtis
  • "Rock ?Collection Study No. 2" by Joan Curtis

Two abstractionists with very different sensibilities currently share an exhibit at Furchgott Sourdiffe Gallery in Shelburne. Painter and sculptor Joan Curtis employs biomorphic forms and narrative details in her imagery, while paintings by Richard Weis, an art professor at Green Mountain College, are primarily nonobjective. Though their styles are distinct, both artists employ vibrant colors and intricate rhythms.

In his online artist's statement, Weis writes that his "focus is upon movement and change as witnessed in the natural forces of the environment around me." The 32-by-42-inch "Windy and Warm" speaks directly to this notion. The acrylic-on-canvas painting is a color field of varied yellows with two isolated patches - one red, the other blue - floating in the upper half. A serpentine red line at top left gives the composition a sense of motion.

In 2002 Weis was a visiting artist-in-residence at the University of Wales, in the coastal town of Aberystwyth, and the following year he was a Fulbright scholar in South Korea. Both experiences have influenced Weis' work. The Asian contribution is most obvious in the 9-by-12-inch mixed-media piece called "Migung." Dynamic crimson and two slightly varied tonalities of white were applied on top of areas under-painted in black and gold, creating two distinct layers of hues. A circular symbol the color of patina-ed bronze is at lower left.

"Path to the Shore," a 24-by-15-inch acrylic work on paper, may be evocative of the Welsh countryside. It's the closest thing to a landscape in Weis' collection. Three groups of vertical lines of decreasing heights fall deeply into the minimal picture plane, and a deep-green demarcation resembling an ancient fence divides an implied "sky" from a pathway of white-over-blue negative space.

The works of Brandon-based artist Joan Curtis are the opposite of non-objective. Her chimerical images are alive with objects both figurative and invented. "Boathouse 1" and "Boathouse 2," each an acrylic on a panel 17 inches square, seem like exterior and interior views of the same fanciful dwelling - essentially a tree house - tethered to boats in the nearby stream. Strange catlike animals recline in and around the house's sweeping lines and checkerboard patterns. Curtis' colors are soft lavender, light blue, pastel greens and reds. Purely decorative, segmented forms crowd into the foregrounds. One can imagine these whimsical pictures as children's book illustrations.

"Rock Collection Study No. 2" is a 17-by-25-inch acrylic on panel with ribbons of black-and-white lines interwoven with flattened, rock-like shapes. The silhouette of a small figure peers from a little window in an abstracted house at lower right. Curtis employs pale lavender, green and a few red borders around a group of indeterminate shapes in the middle of the picture.

A related sculpture entitled "Rock Collection No. 1" uses similar colors and motifs. The 50-by-18-by-15-inch construction of papier-mâché on a wood-and-metal armature resembles a growth of coral - painted, that is, with Curtis' characteristic designs and rhythms. While the artist's paintings are full of intriguing details, they border on the formulaic and overly sweet. The three sculptures in the show are much more original and lively.

This tandem exhibition surveys a range of well-executed moods, spaces and harmonies. The two artists make a bit of an odd couple, but their individual styles complement each other rather than clashing.