Sunday, June 9, 2013

Deborah Pelias' "Sanity" at Boyd Satellite Gallery and Paul Tarver's "Jaguar Empire" at Cole Pratt Gallery

There is still some truth to the old saw, "seeing is believing," but it is also true technology filters much of what we see and how we see it. Digital devices render images as pixels but pictures on a printed page employ the larger dots of the halftone process. Abstract painter Deborah Pelias just lets dots be dots in her new Sanity canvases, but not all dots are created equal. Pelias is all about her process as her canvases evolve from layers of paint that are applied and sanded as dots emerge, recede and change shapes in works like Prototype, where they assume ambiguously trippy patterns. Confronted with such dots, our eyes search for the images we have come to expect, yet they remain elusive, so sightings of saints, Elvis or Marilyn Monroe sometimes occur even if no such miraculous visitations were intended. Some ancient peoples including the Hindu and Mayan civilizations hypothesized that matter arose from the dance of shape shifting atoms, and Pelias revels in the analogous ambiguity of her emerging dot patterns. "This is where the magic happens..." as the painting begins to reveal "a voice of its own."

Can a leopard change its spots? Maybe not, but in ancient Mayan religion jaguars were divine beings who could assume almost any form. Paul Tarver's Jaguar Empire paintings are based on the rare wall paintings still extant in surviving Mayan temples, but the focus is on their overall aura rather than the minutia of their details, hence they are impressionistic tributes to a lost and, for its time, advanced civilization. Tarver employs mottled brushwork as "a subtle homage" to the jaguar's spotted fur, but it is his distillation of forms that reminds us of the Mayan influence on design ranging from art deco and high modernism to the postmodernism of 20th century architecture. ~D. Eric Bookhardt

Sanity: Repeating the Same Process and Getting Different Results: New Paintings by Deborah Pelias, Through July 1, Boyd Satellite Gallery, 440 Julia St., 899-4218; Jaguar Empire: Oil and Wax paintings by Paul Tarver, Through June 29, Cole Pratt Gallery, 3800 Magazine St., 891-6789