Wednesday, October 8, 2008
Aqueous International in Carnegie
The Pittsburgh Watercolor Annual, one of my favorite exhibits, opened recently at the Third Street Gallery, one of my favorite venues. Openings ay the Carnegie gallery are always a treat with live jazz provided by gallery owner Phil Salvato and his trio. The show, which was jurored by Linda A. Doll, has a wide range of works chosen from the vast variety of styles submitted. The juror was responsive to design and subject matter without overlooking content and concept.
The Annual is an international exhibit in which Pittsburgh area artists are well-represented. The wide range of work nicely shows off the versatility of watercolor in terms of both subject and style. Many think of watercolor in terms of the soft-focus spontaneous works of masters like Winslow Homer. This wet-in-wet technique is included but at Aqueous Open we also find the less-common dry brush painting and even impasto, a technique usually reserved for oil. And while watercolorists are predominately realists, I was delighted by the number of non-representational works, especially among the award winners. But pieces stand out in the full spectrum of objective approach.
At the close focus end of the realism scale is Marlin Rotach’s “Land of Plenty” This photo-realist piece, with its rich color and deep tones could easily be taken for oil at a casual glance. It is a good example of the precision of which watercolor is capable in the hand of a master. Leo Goode’s “Welcome Home” is representational of the more traditional handling of watercolor with its layered washes and delicate highlights and shadows. Roc Prologo takes even greater advantage of the transparent nature of the aqueous medium in his “Invisible.” The amorphous monochrome shapes deftly suggest a cityscape background and the shadowy figure of a homeless woman makes a strong social comment. In a similar vein, Terri Perpich captures the plight of society’s disenfranchised with “ Breakfast 7:15, Lunch 12:00, Dinner 5:00.” The title is drawn from a notice posted on the wall of a nursing home and the ethereal figure of a woman in a wheel chair is over-painted in white impasto as if there were an attempt to eradicate her existence.
The figures in Jeanne McGuire’s “The Occasion” are simplified low-chroma silhouettes which take on a compositional life of their own. Although still more objective in its approach, it bridges the gap between the representational and abstract portions of the show. Eileen McConomy’s “Sun-Rising” is a geometric explosion of color and light. The circles and prismatic shafts capture the lens flare one would expect to see in a photograph taken into direct sunlight. Barry Winsand’s “Planetarium” is a catalog of watercolor technique combining washes and spatters to created a fantasy of extra-terrestrial proportions.
The 62nd Annual Aqueous Open continues through October 24. And the full-color exhibition booklet is a lovely keepsake of delightful show.