Now showing in The Washington Center for the Performing Arts are paintings by Lois Beck, Becky Knold and Mia Schulte, three women whose paintings have a lot in common—so much so, in fact, that unless you’ve studied their paintings in detail over time you’d be hard pressed to know which paintings are by which artists. I’ve known their work for years and I had to read the labels on many to know who the artist was.
The paintings fill three floors. They’re all abstract, and except for a couple of black-and-white monoprints by Beck they’re all colorful and filled with layered organic shapes. They’re like the three bears of painting: not too big, not too small but just right; i.e., just the right, modest size to fit comfortably in your living room. That brings me to my one criticism of this show. These paintings are too comfortable. They’re what I like to call wall fodder—noncommittal art guaranteed to please most people and not offend anyone. I admire Beck, Knold and Schulte, and I’ve seen enough of their work to know they’re capable of doing riskier stuff. Recent paintings by Knold, seen online, are quite bold, so I think the sameness and timidity of this show must be happenstance. I also feel the need to point out that the constraint of this show is not so much in evidence in individual pieces as in an overview.
Knold’s painting “Forest Canopy,” in oil on paper, is an abstraction based on the feeling perhaps more than the appearance of entangled leaves and limbs, as seen when standing in a dense forest and looking up into the canopy. Flat areas of yellow-green overlap one another in shallow, layered space like piles of leaves, interspersed with a light, dull blue. (As I describe this, it sounds more illustrative of leaves and sky than it actually is.) These shapes are partially outlined by black marks that also dart into, over and beneath the green shapes to create a nicely ambiguous, spatial dance. The quality of the brush marks in the black lines reminds me of Willem de Kooning.
Schulte uses a lot of icy-cold white and light gray in many of her paintings, which have the feel of ripped sheets of colorful and highly transparent tissue pasted together in patterns that seem almost but not quite random. There’s an implied depth in her paintings that draws the viewer in. The title of her mixed-media painting, “Breaking Away,” could easily refer to glaciers breaking apart.
Beck’s “Placer” is one of the bolder paintings in the show, with its lightning-like zip of white from top to bottom over soft-edged rectangles of muted orange, gray and blue. Her two black-and-white monoprints, “After Midnight” and “String Theory,” offer tantalizing contrasts between floating clouds, flat cut-out gray shapes and scribbled lines that seem to hover. In many ways I think these two prints are the highlight of the show.
(This review appears courtesy of The Weekly Volcano.)
What: The Ways We See
Where: Washington Center for the Performing Arts,
512 Washington St. SE, Olympia
When: reception 6-7:30 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 22, 2017;
show through March 14
How much: free
Learn more: 360-753-8586 | Washington Center