In an unlikely part of town, Gulfton Street near Chimney Rock, just west of 610 West Loop South, a small but impressive gallery welcomes artists to show their passion. The current exhibition, Cutting Edges | Finding Lines presents Rix Jennings, Marie Leterme, and Delaney Smith. Together, they show a range of approaches to artistic communication.
Jennings, in fact, shows a remarkable range himself. Two large drawings, "David" and "Lisa" (ink, charcoal and chalk on paper, each 74" x 42") at first seem monochromatic, though closer inspection shows considerable variation. In "David" a forearm and hand emerge from what may be a thicket of primeval foliage - you may form a different speculation -- and in "Lisa" two forearms and hands are seen clearly, and a torso obscured somewhat - the hands clasp themselves, either in serenity or quiet expectation. This is an unusual approach to portraiture, but it is powerful.
Jennings also has four small oil paintings that are charming, and convey a multi-layered story of existence. "The World Between" has two very different men, each mowing his lawn behind a tall fence, isolated from each other, while between the walls surges a running stream cascading over rocks, indicating the rawness of nature, untamed despite fences. And "Waterway" presents a stream, this one placid, lined with book after book after book, and a comfortable easy chair on the field next to it - the perfect idyllic retirement project.
Two other paintings are created using mixed media on graph paper, the graph lines faint but visible, part of a series titled "The Myth of Er". The title refers to the ending of Plato's Republic, wherein the warrior Er returns after an out-of-body experience in which he witnesses a spiritual judging, the existence of a heaven and a hell, and reincarnation. I found the works interesting but, at least to me, inscrutable. Jennings likes to work with ideas he doesn't fully understand, according to his artist statement, a view I deem wise since the unconscious is so interestingly mysterious.
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Marie Leterme is a Belgian-born artist who grew up near the battlefields of World War I, and is fascinated by this "war to end all wars" - insert ironic smile here. In "Row on Row, the Poppies Blow", she pays homage to the graves of the dead soldiers. And she has created three sculptures as well, using crutches wrapped in bandages, each topped by additional materials that signify the meaning. Because each crutch is so dominant, the sculptures seem similar. I liked most "In Flanders Field, 1914", since the white twigs that graced the top seemed less overpowered by the crutch that was its base.
Delaney Smith is intrigued by books, and illustrates this interest most directly with "Mark the Loss", a set of three books on a table, with one book open. There were two sets of white gloves as well, so I gather one could put on a glove, and turn a page, but I was too intimidated by the linen-colored beauty of the tableau to risk my intrusion.
Smith is also showing two wall sculptures she created, using paper and, very subtly, either dye or india ink. The horizontal "Signature #5" is large (68" x 34" x 5" deep) and powerfully engrossing, many, many sheafs of paper piled together tightly, bleached in color, though with some almost invisible printing on some. The sculpture seems to sing, sotto voce, saying: "Here I am, in all my natural glory. Make of me what you will." To me it signified the incredible importance of books, and the communication in them, and the invisible, magical power of the imagination.
I liked less well the other sculpture "Signature #3", with the tight sheafs of paper cut so that there are three vertical shafts, differing in depth. The paper here is also bleached, and the effect perhaps too monochromatic. You may feel that, like #5, it speaks for itself, but I sensed a need for a red dot of blood, to anchor it in reality, or a tiny splash of gold glitter to remind us of vanity, or something, anything. Cutting Edges | Finding Lines ends Saturday, May 10. It is at Hunter Gather Gallery, 5320 Gulfton St, Suite 15, open Monday to Friday 11 to 6 and Saturday 1 to 5, with information at 713-664-3302 or visit www.huntergatherproject.com.