'Carol Marine: New Paintings'/'Suzanne Lewis: Dune Shack Summer'/'Lesley Nowlin: Guatemala'
The three exhibitions in two neighboring galleries is like the Neapolitan ice cream of art
Reviewed by Rachel Koper, Fri., July 31, 2009
'Carol Marine: New Paintings'/
'Suzanne Lewis: Dune Shack Summer'
Wally Workman Gallery
through Aug. 6
'Lesley Nowlin: Guatemala'
L. Nowlin Gallery
through Aug. 29
Neapolitan ice cream has three flavors in one, and it is a fine way to keep a group happy. In that spirit, two neighboring galleries are dishing up a triad of new art this summer.
The front gallery at Wally Workman Gallery is chock-full of delicious-looking oil paintings by Carol Marine. Her still lifes of fruits and vegetables are more hunger-inducing than the Food Network. Upstairs, the abstract, layered styles of painter Suzanne Lewis offer a great escape into one-of-a-kind patterns and flat spaces. Also a welcome arrival in the building is the L. Nowlin Gallery, currently exhibiting photographs by owner Lesley Nowlin. Her large-format black-and-white images of marketplaces in Guatemala give documentary photography a boost with an intimate viewpoint and portraits of beautiful working women.
Sometimes travel photography bores me. A recurring gripe of mine is an undercurrent of pity – I feel sorry for the poor people in the photos. Nowlin avoids this puritanical cliché by effectively highlighting positive attributes of the people she portrays. In Market Wandering, the camera is behind a shop stall, showing the backs of the sellers. As two young shoppers look down and point at something, their faces glow with a lively look. I found myself really wanting to know, "What are those two looking at?" Was it jewelry? An animal? They looked like friends out having a great day at the market.
Carol Marine paints fresh produce with a loose, square brushstroke. The consistency in her brushwork signals a prolific artistic practice. Her thin layers and even surface quality are impressive, painterly, and confident. The food she paints is food I actually eat. So Marine's tomatoes, garlic, jalapeños, grapes, lemons, limes, and oranges feel like the Austin Farmers' Market rather than a crusty old meat pie or rabbit for the stew pot. These are contemporary paintings that honor the long tradition of still life painting. In a couple of pieces, Marine's sensitivity to the shadows in the overlapping vessels reminded me of one of my favorite painters of all time, Giorgio Morandi, an Italian. While Morandi's colors are muted, Marine's paintings are jumping with well-mixed and tasty color.
Suzanne Lewis' paintings feel cheerful, the warm colors and bright layers seem to contain some innate optimism. Lewis uses thick and thin textures, boxy patterns, and beachy colors in this series of oil paintings. I'm reminded a bit of paintings by Andrew St. Martin. Both artists carefully flatten their picture planes, using rectangles in rhythm and creating linear forms that are organic seed or plant characters. These paintings contain thin-sanded areas, then a thick area is built up and, while wet, scratched through to reveal dark colors painted underneath. I enjoy the play of the chunky forms with the lines. Lewis searches the picture plane and reveals a balanced composition. Blues, greens, yellows, and browns hang out together in a Fifties groovy sea life ensemble. I get pretty picky about abstract paintings, and I was pleasantly surprised by the vibrancy and depth of many of these.