‘Wait and Hope: New Works by Katy O'Connor/Restless Timber: New Works by Jennifer Drummond’

Volitant Gallery's pairing of Katy O'Connor and Jennifer Drummond works so well, you might want to gather some friends and go picnic in the woods by way of celebration

<i>Treetop Burlesque</i> by Jennifer Drummond
Treetop Burlesque by Jennifer Drummond

"Wait and Hope: New Works by Katy O'Connor"/"Restless Timber: New Works by Jennifer Drummond"

Volitant Gallery, through Feb. 10

The show currently at Downtown's brightly expansive Volitant Gallery features the work of two artists, Katy O'Connor and Jennifer Drummond, in a pairing that works so well, you might get the urge to gather some friends and have a picnic in the woods by way of celebration. You might decide to do this every day for a week, so inspirationally successful is this two-woman show, and you might want to invite the artists along for the fun.

<i>Airport</i> by Katy O'Connor
Airport by Katy O'Connor

O'Connor, armed with microfine pen and a palette of oil paints so varied that it'd make a rainbow seem gray, would capture the picnic's people as she captures the brightly clad inhabitants of the paintings in her "Wait and Hope" part of this double exhibition. She wouldn't go for the hyperrealism you might see elsewhere, where the illusion of reality (seemingly without an intermediary) provides a frisson of awe; rather, she'd render near-life-sized snapshots of the people in action and at rest, and she'd do this with oils on paper or canvas, oils often thinned toward watercolor consistency, and allow the choreography of visible brushstrokes to provide as much interest and delight as her accuracy of depiction.

Thus has she created her show's title piece, Wait and Hope, a moment stopped in time at a tennis court, with a ball hanging in the air and the players poised to strike it or return the volley, and From Here to There, in which a man, sprawled on his back on a bed, reaches both hands to encompass the swollen belly of a pregnant woman standing at the bedside. These impressively large pieces and others – including a series of smaller figurative scenes done with ink and marker on paper – are candid shots of humanity, linked only by their intimacy and the millefleur swirl of colors of their subjects' clothes and surroundings.

And when you, at this picnic in the woods, look up from the communal plate of Brie, you might notice that Jennifer Drummond has been concentrating exclusively on capturing the surrounding trees and using only ink and an extremely precise brush. So it is in her "Restless Timber" part of the show: leafless oaks in close-up detail, the gnarls and whorls and brittle corrugations of their bark, the frozen terpsichore of their twisted trunks and limbs, limned in sumi ink on sheet after sheet of expertly framed archival paper. (There's also a series of three vertical panels, called Oak Noir, rendered white-on-black via scratchboard work no less stunning than Drummond's brushwork. And your reviewer wants it.)

What makes the two artists' creations hang so well together are both the contrasts and the easily imagined progression between them. O'Connor's eye-jarring explosions of color give way to Drummond's monochrome line treatments; the humanity of "Wait and Hope" is fully absent from the stark arboretum of "Restless Timber." But Drummond's oaks so often resemble people, the tangles and thrusts of timber are so reminiscent of human form – and the artist reinforces this with titles like The Grove Harlot, Ancient Gymnast, and Deformed Beauty – that they seem very like the young subjects of O'Connor's paintings with their clothes removed and their once-supple bodies wracked and intricately wrinkled by age.

Seeing this show may, through sheer enjoyment of excellent work well-presented, forestall your own fate in that regard, dear reader, if only by a few fleeting years.

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Katy O'Connor:Wait and Hope, Jennifer Drummond: Restless Timber, Volitant Gallery

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