Sunday, January 12, 2014

Norah Lovell at Callan; Peter Barnitz at Ten

Norah Lovell’s colorfully intricate compositions can be seductive yet elusive. Like fragments of dreams that linger upon waking, they draw us in with elements of beauty, familiarity and intrigue while defying easy interpretation. Rendered in pencil and gouache, these smallish  yet very precise compositions hint at the shadowy baroque elegance of Boccaccio's Decameron tales, or the old Venetian carnivals where the beautiful and the sinister, darkness and light, flicker kaleidoscopically. Untwinned Horn: Capillus, above, is a dreamy pastiche of hearts and candelabras where fairy tale princesses share space with rollicking cats, florid wallpaper and ghostly shadows in an imagistic vortex that draws you in, then makes you wonder where you are and how you got there. Untwinned Horn: Malum, above left, while the  Master of Hounds (detail below) reads like a graphical acid flashback to a realm of historical fiction. Here Lovell takes us on an elegantly executed magical mystery tour where high culture and street carnivals find common ground in the far recesses of the imagination.
Peter Barnitz's paintings at Ten Gallery are minimal yet busy. His precisely ordered yet meandering compositions of triangular brush strokes are reminiscent of geodesic dome geometry, only instead of occupying three dimensions, Barnitz creates a sense of space with lighter or darker colors and tones. Comprised of differing shades of charcoal, Reconcilliation reads like a very large and busy star chart, yet the effect is calmly contemplative. Similarly, Moment of Change, left, a deep crimson, charcoal and gray maze, suggests a kind of cryptic code, perhaps some occult secret of the universe rendered as a schematic. A former Loyola basketball team captain turned serious artist, Barnitz distills the meditative, Zen-like side of sports psychology into intricate canvases that inspire visual reveries in the viewer. Like Lovell, he is a recipient of a Joan Mitchell Center artist residency, suggesting that JMC has become a serious art incubator indeed. ~Bookhardt

Beneath the Shades: Mixed Media by Norah Lovell, thru Jan. 28, Callan Contemporary, 518 Julia St., 525-0518;  Amid the Strikes: Paintings by Peter Barnitz, thru Jan. 26, Ten Gallery, 4432 Magazine St., 333-1414.