Texture, form, color stand out in Orner's abstract paintings


"My paintings may appear at first to be patterns of texture, form and color," writes Caroline H. Orner in an artist's statement accompanying the exhibit of her paintings at Knight Gomez (through Feb. 9). She continues, "However, their real effect is located exclusively within a viewer's interior reactions."

According to her statement, the geometric forms in her abstract paintings -- circles, squares and triangles -- are symbols deeply rooted in the human unconscious that act as links between the individual and the cosmic forces of the universe.

My interior reaction to these works, however, has nothing to do with their possible symbolism, which strikes me as extrinsic content wished onto handsome decorative objects principally notable for their texture, form and color.

Orner uses oil in a wax emulsion to create elegant surfaces; her geometric forms relate to one another with a carefully balanced tension; her colors, largely browns, golds and reds (perhaps referring to earth, sun and fire), act as themes that appear and reappear in different ways across her surfaces.

In one of her most successful works, an untitled painting of 1990, a central vertical shape suggesting the human body, with a disk of gold at the head, is flanked and interconnected with rectilinear shapes in a typically symmetrical design. Gold, red and brown appear throughout this design in different relationships, one now minor to the other's major and vice versa.

In another untitled work from 1987, a pencil-thin cross floats between a gold triangle above and a gold and red vertical rectangle below, all on a textured field shot with touches of gold, blue and red. One can read into this work Christianity, sexuality, art history and perhaps much else; but in the end it remains, as it began, a handsome decorative object.

Chevelle Makeba Moore's pastels, in the "front" or office space, use color to intensify the emotional effect of images that may be drawn from specific sources (her artist's statement refers to Christian, African and West Indian) but really relate to human nature.

In "Night Rounds" a presumably female figure pulls the covers up and looks warily in the direction of the room's open door, through which can be seen a dark figure or the shadow of one. This may refer to woman's fear of threatening man, or more generally to fears that exist in all of us. The skulls clutched by the figures in "Try to Let Go" can represent children lost or traditions clung to.

In these works, pastel has none of the pale prettiness sometimes associated with it; instead it is tensely vivid, and Moore's patterned surfaces and spiky chevron borders only heighten the punch of her simple but telling images.

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