Jay Shinn's Cathedrals in the Sky Where Octagonal Is the Way to Go

The Barbara Davis Gallery opened on April 25 its exhibition of Cathedrals in the Sky, a solo-exhibition by Dallas- and New York-based artist Jay Shinn of new and exciting works. Virtually all these works involve a common shape - octagonal - but Shinn varies his conceptions by differing choices in media.

The largest work dominates a wall with grace and subtle energy; this is "Silent Encore" (84 x 204"), a trio of three interlocking octagonals, side-by-side, each of a different coloration - and the colors change. This remarkable feat is accomplished through three ceiling-hung projectors focusing colors with precision on octagonals painted on the wall. The effect is one of seamless beauty.

Within each octagon is another smaller octagon, and within that, another smaller one, and within that, still another, so that the space between the octagons becomes stripes, filled with projected colors. And what colors they are! Shinn has a talent for pairing colors, and uses peach stripes contrasted with grey stripes to lovely advantage. But soon, as the colors change and evolve, the peach is paired with green in a most pleasant embrace.

How do the colors change? They are projected from a 3-minute loop, so the colors move from one octagon to another. Much as I like peach, I am tempted to admire the mauve and blue pairing, so striking, even powerful. And then comes the blue and silver pairing, with the outer rim purple - wonderful. There are many such delightful combinations - come to the exhibition, and find your own favorite.

With such a strong primary piece, the others must necessarily be overshadowed by it. Yet the smaller "Enclosure 2", composed of a rich yellow color projected on an octagon painted on a wall, delivered beauty and style, and created an interesting three-dimensional effect. It would enhance many a home, or museum.

Some other works are three-dimensional in fact, not an illusion. "Outside Voice" and "Inside Voice" have neon octagonal shapes mounted on platforms that are 8" deep. The neon emits a blue-tinged light, but once one has seen the rich palette of Shinn's projected colors, and their subtle shifting, one can hardly be satisfied with a static painting, no matter how skilful.

The exception to the octagonal shape is a large square site-specific work painted on a wall by Shinn - no neon here, no projections. It is "Open Enclosure", perhaps an abstract version of an expanding universe. It features small orderly rectangular splashes of color, mostly blues and greys, seemingly emerging from a concentrated center. It suggests movement, but is graceful, subtle, designed to seduce, rather than to demand attention. Interestingly, scientists have recently changed their view of the Big Bang creation as chaotic - they now believe it began as an orderly, symmetrical expansion. Shinn's intuition may be onto something.

Jay Shinn: Cathedrals in the Sky continues through May 24, Barbara Davis Gallery, 4411 Montrose, suite D, open Tuesday through Friday, 10:30 to 5:30, Saturday 11 to 5:30, information at 713-520-9200 or contact www.barbaradavisgallery.com.

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