I am an artist and I’ve been working…
Experiencing a full-scale exhibit of any professional artist’s work provides valuable context for the viewer.
Often, we learn about the person behind the work, their artistic evolution and details that serve to connect us to the artwork and the artist on a more meaningful level. There are also inherent risks to the artist and curator for decisions made in selecting a cohesive representation of works that is compelling, fits the venue and captivates the anticipated audience.
Along California’s Central Coast, we are never bombarded with heavy-handed marketing campaigns for blockbuster exhibits. Perhaps that is because we respond best to a local, personal invitation or more intimate venues. We love our indie music, regional theater and the opportunity to view things a bit closer, even if it means getting a little squeezed together.
For example, when a world-class artist with a history of success debuts at our petite San Luis Obispo Museum of Art, it is with a respectable nod and welcome rather that a blaring of trumpets even if the fanfare is well deserved. Bruce Everett has changed my opinion of this constricting venue for the better.
The main gallery is dedicated to his exhibit, “A Change of Scenery” through May 12, filling it with light and space that feels right at home. To say these are landscape paintings is like saying Chateau Lafite is wine.
Everett is a California native who grew up in the Midwest and earned his MFA at UC Santa Barbara. According to his website, Everett has “had a successful career as a painter for more than 45 years.” His works are in galleries, museums and collections across the country. His experience and technical skills have produced more than stunning results; they have produced confidence.
That confidence, combined with his apparent infatuation with California is on full display at this exhibit. I slipped into the gallery from the back door in order to avoid the gift shop and entry, so I was pleased to step directly into the world of Bruce Everett quietly.
First, the best news: the massive and technically brilliant “Sand Canyon Road” anchors one complete wall. While the technical category is photorealism, upon close inspection of this painting one sees the telltale marks of repetitive brushwork that echoes our pointillist masters. The effect of these millions of small swirls is hypnotic; one forgives the compulsion of the artist.
This composition is full of classical features including the intriguing bend in the road and unmistakable long view perspective that only a master can achieve. This American classic belongs in a public, permanent collection. At the other end of the gallery hangs “El Dorado,” an imposing painting (approximately 6ft x 7 ft) that contrasts well with “Sand Canyon Road.”
The stylistic flourishes in this composition are a welcome departure from the tortured compulsion of photorealism. The brushwork is looser with subtler contrasts, giving an overall sense of relief to the eye. The perspective is limited to a smaller field. The palette is restrained but allows for high relief and welcome shadow.
In combination, these features are reminiscent of early Gaugin works such as “Martinique Landscape” where synthetism was used to “synthesize the outward appearance of natural forms, the artist’s feelings about their subject, and the purity of the aesthetic considerations of line, color and form.” While thematically differing, the freedom of expression is familiar and satisfying.
There is another painting in this exhibit that is more recent and to my eye, more satisfying. That painting is “Up Santa Rita Road.” In this composition, the artist has employed a combination of techniques to bridge the gap between photorealism and impressionism by providing the viewer with a series of choices to contemplate. The expert rendering of the pavement is compelling but the use and placement of the shadows is the strongest feature, dominating the personality of this painting.
They are playful in their placement and use, literally becoming the entire focus of the painting. Small details such as the blue fence are not so much of lesser importance but serve to balance the angular design of the hillside and looming shade tree. This work feels current and classic at once. While there are other noteworthy works on display, there are a few misfires that could have been avoided by a more critical curator.
Even a masterful painter has moments that miss the mark and should be edited. In this exhibit, “Ranchito Canyon” falls short of controlled photorealism and does not benefit from loose brushwork in similar compositions. The desire to show a wide compendium of works including small plein air seascapes is understandable, but when displayed together in limited space the crowded compilation devalues the whole.
In this venue, inappropriate placement feels unsettling; it’s distracting and a disservice to the artist. It might be too late to re-curate this exhibit, but there is plenty of time to see these masterworks.
March 22–May 12
“A Journey into the Black and White” A journey into the creations and visions behind the 805 brand.
San Luis Obispo Museum of Art, 1130 Pine St., Paso Robles, studiosonthepark.org
“Aquarius & Light the Way” – a juried, Pacific regional water media exhibition featuring contemporary West Coast artworks.
Studios on the Park, 835 Main Street, Morro Bay, 805-772-2504, artcentermorrobay.org