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Meeting abstraction at Columbia's Meeting House Gallery

ArtArtists

As the exhibit title "Abstractions" indicates, there are various ways in which artists can leave realism behind in their artwork. This four-artist show at the Meeting House Gallery in Columbia explores some of those stylistic options.

The photographs by Bob Paulding suggest how the actual landscape lends itself to abstract consideration. In "Amsterdam House," he presents what basically qualifies as a documentary shot of a white house in an urban setting.

Think about how reflections from the sky can have a shimmering effect on a bright day and it'll seem like a natural thing that this house's windows look as blue as the sky above the house. You'll also note that the entire image has a somewhat blurry quality. It's as if what ordinarily would constitute a straightforward picture is slightly dissolving before your very eyes.

Paulding also demonstrates in his photos that getting close to a subject and tightly cropping it can make otherwise realistic scenes become nearly abstract.

In "Acadia Tidal Pool," he gets so close to yellow and red lichen growing on rocks at the seashore that you almost feel like you're looking at an abstract painting and not a photograph; only the presence of white sea shells makes it clear that this is a natural scene.

Even more extreme are "Blue Oil," a close-up view of oil on a road surface that visually achieves a rather dreamy rainbow effect; and "Ship Reflections," a close view of a watery surface in which the melding of numerous colors has a painterly quality.

A second photographer in this show, Cathy Leaycraft, favors strategic blurring effects to take landscapes into near-abstraction. Although there is a crisply outlined tree to help you get your landscape bearings in "Monhegan Morning," the rest of the vegetation is quite blurry.

In "Field and Trees," you easily can make definitional distinctions between the soft green coloration of the trees and the purple-blue tones of the sky above them; however, the natural forms have melted away to such an extent that this photograph resembles the nearly abstract effects achieved by landscape artists working in watercolor.

Speaking of that medium, the exhibited watercolors by Colleen Sabo take full advantage of its ability to make different colors melt into each other. In "Chesapeake Squall," the blended grays and whites convey the sense of an overcast day that is taking a stormy turn.

Like other watercolor artists, Sabo is sensitive to seasonal changes. In "Autumn," the trees have been reduced to black poles serving as vertical markers in a composition that otherwise is a tonal soup of burnt orange and brown. In "Wintery Mix," those black poles are the only quasi-representational markers in a composition that otherwise is ruled by white-out snowy conditions. And in "Spring on the Western Shore," the tree trunks are now purple, the landscape is a deep blue, and the sky is blue and gray; it's as if the artist's colorful imagination is returning color to this season of renewal.

If the three above-mentioned artists make relatively direct references to the natural world, the acrylic and mixed media works on paper by Laurence Chandler push the furthest into complete abstraction.

Consider "Secret Garden No. 3." It's true that this busily worked abstraction deploys shades of yellow, green, red and blue in a fashion that might evoke a garden setting, but there is nothing directly representational here. Indeed, the emotional associations we have with these particular colors would support alternative titles that have nothing to do with a garden.

In that respect, have a look at Chandler's "The Gathering." There are no people or objects gathered here. Instead, what you're seeing are densely applied brush strokes of colors including yellow, green, orange, black and purple. There are blocks of color, as well as slashing lines of it. In other words, it's a gathering of paint.

"Abstractions" runs through July 13 at the Meeting House Gallery, 5885 Robert Oliver Place in Oakland Mills Interfaith Center in Columbia. There is a reception June 16, 1:30-3:30 p.m. Call 410-730-4090 or go to http://www.themeetinghouse.org/gallery.htm.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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