Time Travel, Family Dysfunction, Jewel Tones and the Artists Behind the Art

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Fans of the local visual arts scene will get a kick out of Kay Sarver’s “Studio Junkies” exhibit, where she’s painted some of our favorite artists in their work environments, successfully capturing the energy and spark of these creative spirits. With only first names for the titles of the pieces, it’s a fun game to guess the artists. The clues are in the monochromatic backgrounds, as in Michelle, featuring Michelle O'Michael’s monumental steel sculptures; the controlled precision of the woodworker in Raymond (Saucillo); the photographer snapping the painter’s picture in Joe (Aker); and John (Slaby), with his trademark wire-rimmed glasses, set against one of his multi-paneled landscapes. Other local luminaries are represented, including Damon (Thomas) and Donna (E Perkins), but the one that glowed the brightest was Andis (Applewhite), demanding that the viewer learn more about the artist and her work. Sarver’s exhibit is just one of several on display at Lawndale Art Center, with works spread throughout the gallery spaces.

In the O’Quinn gallery are separate and collaborative works by Harold Mendez and Ronny Quevedo. The grouping of post-minimalist works under the collective title of “Specter Field” includes an eight by seven grid of linoleum tiles, enhanced with copper leaf and a moiré-patterned fabric; a stacking of five oversized bricks surrounded by dried flowers; a sculpture in the shape of three stacked bags of cement, bound with purple string and dusted with russet powder; a black-painted cardboard box with a copper artifact at its center; and a series of vertical coat hangers – enhanced by a snake skin – rising from a base of five linoleum tiles. For the largest piece, the team created a “temporal field” on the floor using graphite, chalk, charcoal and black silicon carbide – which accidentally was trampled upon by visitors – anchored by a chalky-blue ball and intersecting blue lines alluding to time travel. The use of basketballs and soccer balls has appeared in Quevedo’s previous works; his solo piece in this show, Wiphala on Broadway, consists of milk crates and light bulbs hung high on the wall. Mendez’s solo pieces – Winter In America, with its desolate landscape, and Inheritance, with its oddly gray patina of ginger root formation – balanced the exhibit fittingly.

With a nod to family dysfunction, Camille Warmington’s “The Beauty is Broken” exhibit serves as a love letter to her mother, whom the artist lost at a young age. Trying to learn more about this mysterious woman, Warmington has converted family snapshots into 16-color acrylic recreations of these faded drawings, reinventing the stories and, in so doing, preserving the memories of her mother. The Bed Jacket tells the story of her tipsy grandmother showing up to Christmas dinner still in her bedclothes, while the family bravely ignores the situation and continues with their meal. In Genuflect, her mother’s wedding portrait is reminiscent of Jackie Kennedy; while Eulogy for a Perfect Family, set under the Christmas tree, foreshadows the family tragedy to come.

The jewel-like colors of Melissa Borrell’s “Prismatic” installation cast colorful shadows against the wall of this white-on-white gallery space on the third floor. Beginning with flat, geometric grids suspended from the ceiling at different heights, the artist has slotted in flat rectangles of transparent acrylic. Using just a handful of basic colors, the joy for the viewer is seeing the colors multiply exponentially as they layer against each other.

Outdoor exhibits, which will remain up through January 2016, include the participatory and interactive “Lawndale Regional Wilderness Zone” by Elizabeth Eicher and Hélène Schlumberger; and Ghost Grid by Jonathan Leach, which was painted earlier this year on the north wall, featuring a printed circuit board-inspired orange and blue design incorporating the existing windows as architectural elements.

“Specter Field”, “Studio Junkies”, “The Beauty is Broken” and “Prismatic” continue through September 26 at Lawndale Art Center, 4912 Main, open Mondays to Fridays, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturdays noon to 5 p.m., 713-528-5858, lawndaleartcenter.org.

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