"Light" at Wally Workman Gallery

Taking in all the varieties of gold in this polished group show is akin to basking in sunlight on a bleak winter's day

Patches of Color by Scott Kiche

Solstice approaches and with it the shortest daylight, the longest darkness. This is felt throughout the city as we languish through the dim late afternoon and astonish at the earliness of the hour. "It seems so much later!" Light has an inextricable, unexplainable power. It can cast a romantic haze over the most banal of afternoons, sending you into saccharine aches over the golden pool shimmering just the other side of a glass bowl on the table. It can also send you spiraling into insecurity during an everyday moment, dashing into the supermarket to grab a forgotten item, caught before your reflection in the unforgiving fluorescence of the produce aisle. At the Wally Workman Gallery, they are closing out the year with a celebration of light's uncanny tricks with a group show appropriately and concisely titled "Light."

Likely not news to anyone who's stopped in before, the collection of works from the gallery's coterie are executed with technical aplomb and deftly displayed. Upon walking in, James Andrew Smith's impressive Some Memory of Spring captures your attention with its grand size and incredible treatment of color and line. A still life of a flower arrangement, the petals' lush colors have a velvet opacity that pops in contrast to the refraction of light in the blue glass mason jar holding the blossoms. Smaller but no less captivating, Scott Kiche's Patches of Color offers a tender rendering of a few translucent slices of citrus. Kiche's skill in handling what may be the trickiest color – yellow, a suffused presence throughout the show – as he moves from rind to luminous flesh to pockets of shadowy seeds is echoed in abstract painter Helmut Barnett's study of the color in the exuberant Yellow Light, where a gradient of golds from soft meringue to deep amber contorts across the canvas.

A golden thread runs through the show. Follow it from the lightning-shot center of Sarah Ferguson's pulsing geometric painting Gleam across the room to a vein running through Priscilla Robinson's delicate handmade paper sculpture Crack of Dawn. It picks up again in Kate Hooray Osmond's verdant seascape Storm Watch, where gold leaf weaves through the oil-painted clouds and water to spectacular effect. It tangles in Dayna Thacker's deceptively simple collages, spooling around the small figures, binding them to their fantastic realm.

I once had a Swedish roommate who told me that in Sweden, during rare moments of extended sunlight in their bleak winter, they would take a collective break from class and stand outside in whatever patch of light they could find and face the sun, soaking it in; I forget what she called this. Such extreme measures may not be necessary in Austin, but a trip to the Wally Workman Gallery between now and Dec. 23 strikes me as a comparable basking experience.


Wally Workman Gallery, 1202 W. Sixth, www.wallyworkmangallery.com
Through Dec. 23
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Wally Workman Gallery, James Andrew Smith, Scott Kiche, Helmut Barnett, Kate Hooray Osmond, Sarah Ferguson, Priscilla Robinson, Dayna Thacker

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