Monday, April 27, 2009

Another walk through the Vista arts

Although the attention usually goes to the Thursday night public opening of Artista Vista in the Congaree Vista, what’s usually forgotten is that most of these exhibitions are on display for weeks. I love the gallery hopping thing; see lots of people, eat some cheese, talk, talk and talk. I don’t do much looking, and although some people do, most really don’t.

I went back today for another look.

“Perceptual Painters” organized by artist Brian Rego of Camden, is one of the best shows the gallery has mounted. The seven artists are associated with the Pennsylvaina Academy of Art, which is considered a quite conservative place. These paintings are conservative, but it is conservatism to admire – good technique, solid composition, emotions and ideas that speak softly rather than scream. The paintings are of interiors, still lifes, a few figures and some landscapes and while all the art feels tied together, each artist has a distinctive voice.

The complex and cool interiors by John Lee (right) give way to a warmth and a little humor in Dave Campell’s mostly small pieces. A few of the works are a little more out there, but they show plenty of skill and imagination with traditional approaches.

It's obvious that these artists are talented, but judging they also seem young. I want to see what happens when they really push themselves during the next few years. In the meantime, this show will do quite nicely.

“Perceptual Painters,” through June 27.

“Wings” a small show of paintings by Elizabeth Foster, sings a bit then flies away.

The show at the Carol Saunders Gallery most often focuses on birds birds flying, birds looking at us and birds dong things bird might be able to do if they organized a union such as moving a nest and delivering mail.

Foster’s birds are beautiful and well-rendered, but what she does with them doesn’t often work. Those set in a kind of patterned background look a little too much like plain old decoration. Where she tries to set them free, they’re often lost in an undistinguished landscape. Foster is most likely doing this intentionally – the finished feathers contrasting against a more unfinished background. But these birds and their flights of fancy call out for more finely-tuned technique.

The show is up through May 23.

Carl Blair of Greenville (his "My Heart is Longing for You" is in the upper left) is one of the state’s art treasures and it’s always good to see his work. What can one say about his most recent show at if Art? Not much more than it is a very fine show with some real standouts. Oh and that it has a bunch of animal sculptures in it, but more about that in a minute.

Blair is a landscape painter, but one who mostly keeps the landscape in his head and does that he wants to with it. This most often find its way into canvases that are often grid like, but which can also explode into glowing pools and swooping shapes. There’s all that in this show, which has works dating back to the 1984, although most is from the last decade.

For me, the mostly abstract “I Think I Play Snowy Day” from 2003 is one of the most beautiful, moving and most unusual of his works I’ve seen and I’ve seen hundreds.

The animal sculptures are rough-hewn critters with a little color. They’re fun and unless you drop one on your foot, harmless.

“Flora and Fauna” runs through May 9.

Each spring, the resident artists of Vista Studios (also known as Gallery 80808) have a group show. This isn’t a commercial gallery, although it sometimes serves that purpose.

All the artists do fine work, but the exhibition itself doesn’t serve the viewers, the gallery or the artists well.

This is a show in which the artists put in whatever they want to put in. I’m sure they’re putting up what they think are their best pieces, but one person’s best work, according to them, next to another person’s best work, according to them, may not make for the best show. And this needs to be a real show, not just one from artist A and one from artist B and so on. It’s a strange show because it is all about the group, but it is also completely about the individual.

Hiring someone to organize the resident artists’ exhibition would probably be too expensive and complicated and would no doubt cause hard feelings. And the last thing we need is to mess up something like Vista Studios which is a monument to the survival of art in the Vista.

For the visitor who doesn’t know much about Vista Studios, there’s no explanation of what this place is, why the show exists and who these artists are. The person who is stopping by for the first or maybe even fifth time doesn’t know it from the gift shop around the corner showing art. For those of us who have been around time, it may seem obvious, but this year it is painfully NOT obvious.
Even monuments need upkeep.

The Vista Studio resident artist exhibition is on display though May 15.

One long-term Vista gallery was missing this year: the I. Pinckney Simons. The gallery which has existed in Columbia in one form or another for 30 has closed its Columbia location on Gervais Street to concentrate on its Beaufort location.


  1. I cannot let Jeffrey Day's comments on Vista Studios/Gallery 80808 pass without a response since I disagree with much of his assertions. We at Vista Studios appreciate the recognition of the value of this gallery, which he has generously noted, but I think the current show is comparable to any other group show we have presented.

    It may be true that many visitors want to see more written information presented concerning the artists and theme of the shows, other than the brochure will currently place in the gallery, but this is an artist-run gallery without a gallery director. Our work is visual and our focus is the visual image. However, there appears to be a consensus that in the future we will address this issue with the help of a member volunteer who will attempt to cover the literary aspects of the exhibits.

    The show, as in group shows of the past, was not organized and arranged by the individual artists as Jeffrey Day implies. It was painstakingly organized by one of our most respected and experienced members, who spends several days arranging and hanging the works submitted by the various artists, attempting to organize the exhibition around a visually coherent composition of varied images and themes. This is no easy task.

    The show is not only about the individual artist, but also about the visual relationship between the works of individual members. As in a collage, the diverse visual and thematic elements are organized into a composition tied together by a variety of relationships - both contrasting and harmonizing with one another. It is not just about the individual, since each individual is viewed in the context of the surrounding art works. In its totality, the show is a visual image composed of the varied works of all members of Vista Studios.

    Organization around a theme can be an effective tool for organizing a show from a literary perspective. However, when you have a group of mature artists with individual points of view, there is a reluctance to accept a theme that places too many conditions on freedom of expression.

    The theme for this show is, "A View from the Studios." What is the view? Each studio has its own view - each artist has his or her own view. The current show at Gallery 80808 focuses on this diversity.

    Don Zurlo

  2. I should have spent more time proofreading my recent post. It was wordy with grammatical errors. It probably does not make much difference at this point because it has already been moved from the front page to the “older posts” file. Nevertheless, let me condense my previous comments into a summary of my thoughts on Jeffrey Day’s critique of “A View from the Studios” currently at Gallery 80808.

    We do have written information available at the gallery concerning the various artists - in the form of brochures, and we have a web site designed to communicate additional information on the gallery and its functions. Business cards with the web address are also available at the gallery. However, no one can argue that some visitors may like to have more information.

    Jeffrey Day’s blog leaves one with the impression that the show was organized by the various artists at Vista Studios without concern for the show in its totality. It was not. It was organized over a period of several days by an experienced and respected member of Vista Studios who has arranged prior group shows as well, and has always done an outstanding job. This individual arranged the works submitted by the artists in an effort to create a visual space in which the various works compliment one another. It would be comparable to reconciling the disparate elements in a collage.

    The exhibition is consistent with the theme, “A View from the Studios.” Each studio has its own view and each artist his or her own viewpoint. This is what makes the show coherent and effective. It represents the diversity of the individual members of Vista Studios. The show is about diverse viewpoints.

    Don Zurlo

  3. I probably condensed it too much because I should have said, "However, no one can argue about the fact that some visitors may like to have more information."


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