The Cambridge Art Association has had a tradition for a number of years of inviting artists to submit works along the theme of two colors: red and blue.
This year it was red and for whatever reasons that color, in this writer’s opinion, struck such a resonant chord from the palette of so many excellent artists that I would have broken tradition to title it “Big Red.” Juried by Dan Byers, the director of the Carpenter Center for Visual Arts at Harvard University, this year’s harvest is such a feast that one is well advised to nibble and digest rather than run wild and miss almost everything.
Even at the smaller of the two venues for “Red,” the Kathryn Schultz Gallery, located up Mt. Auburn Street from Harvard Square just opposite the bus stop for Mt. Auburn Hospital, I knew I wouldn’t be able to stand in front of every work long enough to do its artistry even small justice.
So, letting myself be guided by my mood, I fetched up in front of Michael Moore’s “Lone Sail.” Filled with calm and serenity with just a fizz of tension, it’s a realistic description of a red sunset on a beach observed by two tiny figures close enough to be unshod and feeling, together, the wetness of tidal wavelets.
I felt very much to be a third observer of the lone sail, the subtle weather and the huge red sun going down. We three enjoyed front row seats on a hit show that’s always different.
Sticking rigorously to my program, I bypassed a wall of paintings, sculptures etc. each of which deserved lingering attention, to fetch up again just where the compass of my present mood pointed. From the comparatively anchored and measured mood of Moore’s “Lone Sail” to Eamon White’s “Two Ways” is to pass from a stately ballet to a furious jazz tap dance. Though once you have your feet under you, the whirligig of colors and forms in the latter painting exhibits every bit as much subtlety and balance as the more meditative “Lone Sail.” And what a refreshing complement the two visions are to each other: a magician’s cloak turned inside out!
Kevin Duffy’s “Red Wagon” is quite another ride than those moods which first moved me around the Kathryn Schultz Gallery, but equally magical. Duffy takes solid granite with a cast of red and transforms it into a wrinkle of speed. Low-set on four bulbous, doughnut-shaped wheels, it seems from different angles to be navigating dangerous curves, or blasting down a straight-away, hell-for-leather.
Granite partly polished to a gleam and partly in its rough natural state, it’s both adamantly “now” and also forever, a deathless archetype and your neighbor Joe’s jalopy — a work-in-progress only serious eyes are allowed to glimpse.
Borne along on perfectly mixed moods in paint and in the brisk draft of a granite speedster, we walked down to Harvard Square to view the second and much larger venue of “Red” at the University Place Gallery, just opposite the U. S. Post Office. There were so many works of art hanging in the lofty lobby and stretching down the wide main corridor of this spacious office building. I was lucky it was the very first painting that caught and held my attention.
Although the real space of the building around me seemed static, Cindy Cuba Clement’s painting drew me into a small study, a room I’d always imagined for myself, to which I’d bring my latest thoughts and find thoughts there in mature waiting.
So many opposites tugging the vision between outspoken and muted colors, between a hard-won balance forged in geometry and an easy acceptance of the rigors of age and time flickering from shifting interiors, alternately shining and opaque.
This was drawing and coloring I knew would work with me, embracing my struggles as worthy in their own right without shoving them, factitiously, into columns of totted up successes and failures. Leaving, reluctantly, the long perspectives of Clement’s “From Beyond Time and Space,” I searched for a like-minded but differently phrased work of art. And found it at the end of the same opening wall of University Place Gallery in the tightly woven, brilliantly colored spaces of Laura Ewing’s “What Would Be Burning.”
Ewing’s layered drawing forefronts the speed with which moments of perception pass into other moments while thought scrambles to unify sensation into ideas and objects open-ended enough to embrace future sensations.
It’s like watching a fire continually being refurbished with more fuel, a cool fire of synapses instead of wood but no less a contained conflagration, no less textured for all its interiority.
Jim Kociuba’s “Maple Breeze” channels the Japanese concept of “Komorebi,” which translates into the painterly movement of sunlight through leaves.
There was both delicacy and dynamism in this deft representation of a common maple tree. But for this viewer the work was also a further representation of the passion for lucidity, contradictions be damned, I’d found in the two abstractions that had so engaged me in the lobby. A flurry of squiggly marks bespeaking both chance and spontaneity, both lost and retained leaves in a strong wind there was also, in the geometry of pollen grains, a crisp microscopic view of a sturdily evolved and precisely chiseled endurance living side by side with transience and chance.
The best argument, if one has to be made, for multiple visits to one art exhibit is that each experience enhances one’s appreciation of particular qualities in the craft and vision of painting. I doubt I would have seen as fully Laura Ewing’s vision in “What Would Be Burning” If I hadn’t first engaged with Cindy Cuba Clement’s “Beyond Time and Space” — or returned to view both more deeply after engaging with Jim Kociuba’s “Maple Breeze,” a scene of opposites finding interface: stillness depicted in motion, transience along with monumentality — if only the monumentality of the human gaze.
(“Red 2018” remains on view through December 20 at the Cambridge Art Association’s Kathryn Schultz Gallery, 25 Lowell St., Cambridge, Massachusetts (which is open Tuesday through Saturday from 11 a.m.-5 p.m.) and University Place Gallery, 124 Mount Auburn St., Cambridge, Massachusetts (open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m.-6 p.m. and Saturday from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. For more information, call (617) 876-0246.)