Noted art collector Peggy Guggenheim is quoted with saying, "My knowledge of art ended at impressionism." Guggenheim was a well-known fan of abstract and avant garde art; she was married to Dadaist Max Ernst after all. Whether Guggenheim was complimenting the Impressionist movement or putting it down is up for debate, I have felt this way at times. It seems sometimes as if the Impressionist movement never ended; we won't let it.
The influence of the impressionists is very much at play in the new collection "50 Shades of Green," at the Archway Gallery. The show, which opened this weekend and runs through the end of the month, is the works of painters Judy Elias and Harold Joiner.
Let's put aside the horribly clichéd title and concentrate on the work itself. The collaborative collection features a variety of oil paintings mostly of outdoor settings in which "the artists realized... the prominence of green as a modifier." The artists also share a similar style and good deal of overlap in content.
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Joiner's work is primarily nature, ripe landscapes, running bayous, and parks, many of which are located in Texas. The green of his paintings is a quiet one, serene and peaceful. In the painting "Spring Green, Placid Lake," Joiner has captured acres of lush forest reflected in a pool of blue. A gathering of leaves lay across the water, making the scene feel more autumn than spring, as the painting is described. Regardless, it is a beautiful piece of work, with more of a sense of realism than some of the others in the collection. This is what makes it stand out.
Elias' group of works falls more on the impressionism side of the spectrum across the board. Where she finds distinction is in her subject. A small series entitled "Cinque Terre Italy" shows Elias range, lovely Italian windowsills with breezy curtains overlook cobblestone streets and villas. But much of her landscapes felt stale; we've seen it before and some of it we've even seen over on the other side of the gallery.
There are many beautiful paintings in "50 Shades of Green," but you've seen their kind before. I understand the rationale for placing two very similar artists together in one collection, but the overlap between the two painter's style, impressionist influence and setting did more harm than it should have. Neither artist can shine when placed next to each other. If Peggy Guggenheim was still alive she may say that the impressionist movement was still alive and kicking, for better or worse.
"50 Shades of Green" at the Archway Gallery now through January 30. Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday 1 to 5 p.m. For more information visit archwaygallery.com