Visual Arts

Check Mate Featuring Gil Bruvel Creates Powerful Images in Steel and Glass

Gil Bruvel's brilliant steel and ceramic chess sets - three of them, each different - are mounted on pedestals for easy viewing, and they dominate the center of the Laura Rathe Fine Art Gallery.

They are witty, urbane, and beautiful, and add grace and vitality to the board of this challenging game. Even the board is art, as it is glass, with half the squares supported by individual works of art, each different, and half floating, so he desired checkerboard pattern is achieved. The facial expressions on royalty are to be savored, as is the private stair to her throne of one queen.

You may have seen other complex chess sets and boards, but I doubt if you've ever seen any that rival these in their airy, three-dimensional quality, each piece separate and movable. The detailing is rich and inventive, and I'm glad to have seen them. They are elegant - I wondered who could live up to them - perhaps the Pope, or aliens when next they visit.

As impressive, powerful and amusing as these chess sets are, Bruvel's other works are even more powerful. Bruvel here opts for archetypal authority, not humor - though he still includes wit. There are a number of sculptured heads, made of stainless steel, sometimes colored. Each head tells a story, in the facial expression, with the title sometimes providing a clue.

"Dichotomy" presents the head and upper torso of a woman, formed of ribbons of steel, with open spaces between, creating a wind-blown, flowing effect, and making the steel seem fluid and alive. Each side of the face is different, suggesting both a cosmetic disadvantage and a capacity for duplicity.

In "Rain", still steel but less flowing here, the reflection of a man's head begins at the jawline, with the reflection seemingly a mirror image, but my imagination wondered if the expression in the hooded eyes below was really the same. The impression here is that of a warrior, as strong as the Spartan Leonidas defending the mountain pass against the Persian invasion. This is not a man to trifle with.

The Laura Rathe Gallery has done a wonderful job in arraying this exhibition, and the Bruvel sculpture "Dichotomy" is especially shown to advantage in front of a window, so that light streams through its open areas. With all of Bruvel's work here, there is a significance and authority that cries out for breathing space. The sculptures belong in a museum, perhaps each alone in its own room, awaiting idolaters.

Though it features Bruvel, this is a group show. Andreas Nottebohm is considered a master in Metal Painting, and his work here, titled "KN-2075" lets us see why. It is an elongated oval, oil painted on aluminum, primarily blue but with shifting elements of green as one moves past it. It is seemingly three-dimensional, shimmering with light and apparent movement as the viewer moves. It suggests water, and has an otherworldly quality, as though it might be a futuristic control panel for a spaceship. It is wonderful.

Gian Garofalo's art presents a series of vertical stripes of varying colors, but with so many stripes, and so many colors, that the work is bursting with vitality and energy. And there is additional paint apparently still dripping from the bottom of the stripes, a subtle touch of added wit. This is a generous painter.

Roi James also employs vertical stripes, acrylic on wood, and there is a semi-symmetry as the colors shift toward the middle, and then resume to be repeated again. The art is colorful, and has a soothing, serene quality, almost regal in its quiet authority. And there is more, much more to savor - this is an exhibition replete with artistic pleasure.

Check Mate, a group exhibition featuring Gil Bruvel, continues through August 29, Laura Rathe Fine Art, 2707 Colquitt, open Tuesdays to Fridays, 10 to 5 and Saturdays 11 to 5, 713-527-7700,

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Jim Tommaney