Peripatetic Molly Barnes, independent art dealer, radio personality, and former gallery owner, has recently organized an art event on both coasts. In New York she showed the artist Guy Nelson and has organized presentations for May 16 and 17 at the Roger Smith Hotel that include personalities such as: Peter Plagens, former art editor of Newsweek, currently writing for the Wall Street Journal; Sterling Lord, literary agent, and John Gruen, cultural historian and photographer for “Speak.” In Los Angeles she’s curated a pop-up exhibition at the Tobey C. Moss Gallery. Featured at the show are the paintings of Roland Reiss, Dawn Arrowsmith, and Jill Sykes, three of L.A.’s most accomplished artists working out of the L.A. Brewery Arts Complex (holding their Artwalk on April 27).
The exhibit’s title is “Flowers, Shade, and the Natural Curve,” or put another way, “Flowers” from Reiss; “Shade” from Sykes; and “Natural Curve” from Arrowsmith. Dawn Arrowsmith informed me that the show’s title is a play on a quote from D.H. Lawrence,“…Live and let live, love and let live, love and let love, flower and fade, and follow the natural curve, which flows on…” The images of the artists in front of their works (courtesy of Mauro Caputo) demonstrate how well Barnes has curated three artists who resonate almost seamlessly with each other.
Painting fulltime since the late 1990’s, Jill Sykes, an illustrator and graphic designer, has created works that are deceptively subtle and sophisticated. She composes silhouetted shapes of palms or leaves on branches that brilliantly maintain gravitas in each painting.
Her outline treatment is pristinely blurred and multi-outlined, creating musical vibrations for the viewer and reflecting the know-how of an accomplished illustrator. Her background colors are carefully matched to the mood of the foreground and create an atmospheric quality that varies in each painting, often achieving an Agnes Martin minimalist feel.
Taking her paintings to a wholly different level, one of Sykes’s most amazing creations is found in the sycamore patterns of the wall surfaces she created for architect Michael Kovac’s Sycamore House in Pacific Palisades.
Dawn Arrowsmith’s current paintings on exhibit are from her “Locus “ series, which displays a keen willingness of the artist to explore boundaries. Each painting is her personal interaction between the geography she visually captures with today’s technologically advanced and ubiquitous smart phone, which she then relates to her emotional reactions to that location through her paintings. This is the “locus,” the term she chooses taken from the Latin word for location.
What makes this interesting is the artist’s ability to make such translations by creating viscerally charged “Piet Mondrian” like abstractions, utilizing a variety of viscosities in paint application, to create solid works that lose none of their internal delicacy. The end products are like captured records, diaries if you will, of her reactions to time and space that also connect to our universal human emotions. Christopher Miles once wrote of her work that it was like “…a layering of flavors…,’’ a kind of minimalist luxury…” Indeed, Arrowsmith is following “…the natural curve, which flows on…” but doing it with an intense care.
Roland Reiss’s art has never been an easy read; visual clutter that isn’t really cluttered, simplicity that isn’t actually all that simple, a surface appearance that’s more often than not a multi-layered extravaganza. Reiss is a master of placing the common into uncommon situations and in these small, special essay paintings of his floral series, (most are quite large) he doesn’t disappoint. In these works he juxtaposes strong unexpected colors that relate as sound does to music. Here he deliberately continues his constant explorations of material but limiting himself to a brushed ground with flat vinyl shapes and colors. The result is a rather uniform, colored silhouette effect of seemingly entangled shapes of flowers and stalks that ultimately subordinate and reconcile to the greater, centered whole.
Reiss is essentially creating a relationship of silhouetted floral forms that can be contrasted to the reality of nature. Might this be the artist’s way of starting the dialogue for the viewer to finish? It’s an invitation that Reiss must surely relish. We must stay tuned.