Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Tis the season, and the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts has opened its Holiday Show and Sale--a wonderful cornucopia of decorations and gifts and a great way to support local artists and craftsmen. But while you're picking out your trinkets and goodies, take a few moments to check out the PCA galleries--several independent shows offer an array of worthwhile exhibitions. First up: the Watercolor Society's "Aquous Open" (I'll save the second floor for a later post.)
Watercolorists tend to work in a narrow range both in terms of technique and subject matter. Most every piece is executed in transparent watercolor and objective realism dominates the show. Within the scale of representationalism, however, there is a full range of works from Photorealism to abstract.
At the high end of verisimilitude are the works of Charles Pitcher and Marlin Rotach. Pitcher's "The Dance" (Best of Show) depicts the familiar tree trunks which never cease to astound and amaze. Rotach's "Sign of the Times" gives us a Gulf Coast harbor scene in deep, lush color. By contrast, the white roofs in the background create a layered depth of field and make the foreground seem all the more vibrant.
There aren't many non-representational pieces, but Denise Athanas's "The Red Balloon" stands out visually and intellectually. Although apparently based on at least the idea of an object, Athanas' piece is reminiscent of the Russian Constructivism of the early Twentieth Century. The bold shapes and powerful lines create a sense of tension and unresolved conflict.
The juror, Eric Wiegardt, chose works that, in his opinion, exemplified good design and exhibited honest self-expression. All the pieces in the show do this admirably but the diversity of expression may be its strongest feature. Among the most expressive are Steven Kleier's "Hawthorne Street" with its sumi-like brush work and Terri Perpich's "Rose, White and Very Blue."

Aquous Open is dedicated to Linda Fruhwald, Past President of the Watercolor Society, and runs through January 28th of next year.

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