Sunday, January 15, 2017

Anastasia Pelias at Ferrara; Kikuo Saito at Octavia; James Kennedy at Callan

Are there more coincidences in this city than elsewhere? It often seems that way, as evidenced by three abstract painting shows on Julia Street that remarkably, yet unintentionally, complement each other via surprising atmospheric and calligraphic synergies. In fact, Nola artist Anastasia Pelias' new Sisters oil stick paintings may be her most deftly atmospherically gestural works to date. Rendered in swatches of drippy sea mists, emphatic charcoal smudges and subtle wisps of color, all were painted while listening to recordings of female singers for whom each of the paintings are named. While painting to music is nothing new, Pelias' lithe charcoal gestures actually do convey a sense of choreographic fluidity. Reminiscent of Edo period Japanese ink studies where calligraphy and imagery seem to have knocked back some saki and danced a tango together, works like Joni evoke ethereal musical sequences hovering precariously in the air. Patsy, top left, recalls a mysterious Asian pictograph radiating secret meanings, or maybe just plans for a hermit hut cobbled from driftwood and old kimonos. Deftly yet playfully executed, Sisters seems a promising new direction for Pelias.

Kikuo Saito's paintings at Octavia, for instance, African Red, left, reflect the late Tokyo-born artist's flair for floating, gestural brush strokes inflected with a prismatic bravura perhaps partly facilitated by his deep familiarity with great abstract visionaries like Helen Frankenthaler, with whom he once worked. These paintings from his final years, 2010 – 2015, are so pristine we can only wonder what would have come next had there been a next time.

James Kennedy's syn•tac•tic paintings at Callan are so precisely and delicately balanced that some -- for instance, Articular, above -- evoke cut-away views of futuristic inventions, maybe advanced automobile engines powered by the sounds of birds or barking dogs. Some recall Marcel Duchamp's alchemical diagrams crafted in glass, but beyond its sense of mysterious inner music expressed in whimsical mechanisms, this show lives up to its billing as a “spatial conversation” with a “highly developed aesthetic grammar.” And of course, syntax, hence its name. ~Bookhardt / Aastasia Pelias: Sisters, Through Jan. 28, Jonathan Ferrara Gallery, 400A Julia St., 522-5471; : Kikuo Saito: New Work, Through Jan. 28, Octavia Art Gallery, 454 Julia Street St., 309-4249; , James Kennedy: syn•tac•tic, Through Feb. 18, Callan Contemporary, 518 Julia St., 525-0518.