VISUAL ART REVIEW by Alec Clayton for OLY ARTS
Three painters whose style and subject matter differs greatly yet whose work look good hanging together can be seen at Olympia’s Allsorts Gallery. Currently on display are half a dozen paintings by Barlow Palmenteri, portraits and cityscapes by Nathan Barnes, and assembled landscapes by Liza Brenner. Barnes is famous for paintings of friends and family that are cut out and reassembled into surrealistic fantasies. Like Salvador Dali, to use an obvious example, the individual parts are precisely painted in a photo-realist style but are put together with fantasy elements that range from the comic to the horrendous. But not in this show. Here he is showing work of quite a different nature.
Palmenteri is well known for detailed paintings of his own studio with paintings within paintings resting on easels and stacked against walls, and often with the artist and his friends in the studio and views into other rooms or the garden outside. He has also shown paintings of comic book heroes and most recently at Art House Design homages to Renaissance artists. His work at Allsorts consists of six tall paintings that combine elements of all the above.
Brenner’s work is not as familiar to locals, but she has shown a few pieces in exhibitions at South Puget Sound Community College. At Allsorts, she is showing a small group of landscapes painted on what appears to be wood panels and cut out and reassembled. There is dark and heavy look to them like landscapes by Cezanne that are pieced together in shallow space. Cars and houses are partially hidden behind dense trees. Each painting is constructed in about five stacked layers with trees and rocks in front and the sky and clouds at the back. A typical example is “Once a Year.” A car pulling a camper trailer painted in a camouflage style (the trees are also painted as camouflage) drives through the forest on a partially hidden road to a cabin that is also partially hidden by the trees. The fascination in these constructed paintings, beyond the joy of discovering things that are not evident at first glance, is that they are three dimensional with a visual back-and-forth between actual and illusionary space.
Palmenteri’s figures are much more softly focused than his earlier studio paintings. All edges are blurred. The colors, predominantly hot orange and green, are so intense as to almost scorch the eyes of the viewers. Figures and objects within the densely packed space overlap and visually spar with one another in ways that are almost Escher-like. For instance, in “The Abyss,” there is a picture of a painter wearing a bright red sweater painting a picture on an easel, but the painter himself is a painting on an easel and there are other painters and other paintings all around. It is like a funhouse mirror.
There are two cityscapes by Barnes, one in black and white and one in full color. These paintings are more impressionistic than his familiar photo-realist style, with every brushstroke clearly and solidly laid down. A little more like his earlier constructed work, there is a family portrait with the artist—recognizable to anyone who knows him—holding his two children, an infant and a boy with yellow hair. Behind them are silhouetted images of the same three with the father holding the baby in air and the boy seated on the floor. The composition is reminiscent of a Matisse interior, and the paint application, particularly on the baby’s fingers and the boy’s hair is simply marvelous, and the lighting is strong and dramatic.
The show is up this weekend and next weekend only.
Paintings by Barlow Palmenteri, Nathan Barnes and Liza Brenner
5-7 p.m., Oct. 19, 20, 27, 28
Artists reception Sunday, Oct. 21, 4-7 p.m.
All Sorts Gallery
2306 Capitol Way S, Olympia
Free, paintings for sale