Mark Barry's paintings still show humor but add deeper meaning


Mark Barry's paintings have always been fun, catching the flavor and tempo of the urban scene and giving it a humorous spin. In the two-person show "Mark Barry and Raya Bodnarchuk," now at Knight Gomez (through June 29), his work on the whole contains less of the obvious humor, but it has grown deeper, as his means have become more fully integrated with the spirit of the work.

The two musical paintings here, "Combo" and "Jazz Movement," are particularly good examples. In both, color and the blending of colors act as visual metaphors for music. The muted background and costume colors -- purples, blues and blacks -- of "Combo" act as an obbligato against which the yellow-orange of the saxophone and the softer brown of the bass play their solos. The pink and blue of the wall and the green, brown and yellow of the floor in "Jazz Movement" now blend, now separate, like lines of music coming to the surface then sinking back into the general flow. The dark, soft atmospheres of these paintings capture the feel of friendly late night jam sessions and bring to mind the murmur and wail of the blues.

Elsewhere, the flow of the forms in "Swingin' Baby" -- the tree, the dog, the two people and the swing -- form a fluid composition that aptly supports the subject. The feeling of elation imparted by "The Bride and Groom" is reinforced by the lilting lines of the dress and veil and the exaggerated size of the bouquet being thrown. "It Took Two" is a retelling of the Adam and Eve story in a modern urban setting, with a zigzagging traffic sign playing the part of the snake.

In "The Rug Cutters" the curves of the rug, the floor and the wall and the pattern of the woman's dress suggest the whirls and rhythms of the dance. In this company, "Good Golly What's She Doing With That Clown" acts as something of a reminder of Barry's lighter pieces; it's good, too, but in comparison with it the best works here show how much development has taken place.

The simplified forms of Raya Bodnarchuk's life-size bronze sculptures -- "Man," "Woman," "Seated Figure" -- avoid both stylization and monumentality. Instead they possess a kind of essential serenity, a quiet presence neither intrusive nor retiring. They testify for a vision of something eternal in the human spirit.

Beside them, Bodnarchuk's wooden female figures, with their grain and their knots, look somewhat fussy. Most of her smaller, tabletop bronzes are reminiscent of pre-abstract 20th century art. One can see hints of African sculpture, Picasso, Brancusi. But one of these smaller works, "Cat," is different from the others. More in the spirit of her large bronzes, it really captures the cat's combination of coy cuteness and aloof mystery.

In the front or office gallery are photographs by Harry Connolly from his "Patterson Park Portfolio." These pictures of little league baseball players freeze a repertoire of expressions, from the determined to the sad, the quizzical to the concentrated, the eager to the proud.

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