Deborah Donelson, Scott T. Pina and Jim Long may not have much in common other than gallery space at the Nye Gomez Gallery, but their current exhibit makes one eager to see more work by all three of these promising artists.
Not one to paint a peaceful picture, Donelson obsessively applies oil, oil stick and pencil to create her paintings on paper. She aims for a restless interplay between isolated totemic images and the intensely fragmented abstract fields behind them. She also likes to incorporate written words that have been partially obscured.
If these paintings often don't quite fulfill their ambitious agenda, they're still the product of an activated imagination.
The centered image most frequently used by Donelson is that of an expressionistically schematic female nude. In one untitled painting, the artist is so intent on scratching that form into our consciousness that the woman's hand becomes a scrawled claw. Perhaps Willem de Kooning's ceaseless expressionist variations on the female form had some influence on Donelson's approach. But even if this is the case, his generic studies differ from her concern with a more specific female condition, as in "Puberty," where the main figure and some crudely traced female figures next to her give a stylistic sense of the awkwardness of that age.
Another female figure of interest is "Bather," in which the lady swimmer is clad in a black one-piece bathing suit. The messy meldings of blue, green and pink surrounding this figure convey the aquatic element through which she moves. Other Donelson paintings would benefit from just such a compelling relationship between representational figure and abstracted background.
This "Bather" more or less seems like somebody swimming through our own era, but Donelson generally presents figures who exist in a sort of time before historic time, as in "Ancestor." The sure give-away of the artist's prehistoric tendencies comes in a series of buffalo pictures. "Red Buffalo," for instance, with its boldly centered image and surrounding childlike scrawls, quite deliberately looks like cave art. Other paintings, such as "Where It Is Good To Be," include the ghosted pencil outlines of buffalo.
The simple power of such paintings is more effective than paintings like "Annunciation," in which the faces and figures are so densely layered and fragmented that our attention tends to scatter, too.
Scott T. Pina's reliance on a sculptural vocabulary of steel, wood, rubber and graphite makes us aware of how these highly contrasting materials can be bound together. In "One," there is ,, even a metal blade acting as a slice between two upright pieces of wood. The pencil markings on the wood alter our perception of it by making us directly aware of the artist's touch. What alters the wood even more are the strips of rubber that are wrapped around sections of it.
Pina seems bound to the same theoretical goal as another sculptor in our region, Rebecca Kamen, who has also explored how rubber-wrapped sculpture can speak to states of closure and tension. Indeed, Pina has a sculpture titled "Closure" in which black metal is strapped around a wooden wedge, and black tape is wrapped around both wood and metal.
His sculpture isn't necessarily tense, however, as pieces like "The Sheltering Storm" prove. An upright wood beam, slightly bent, is sheltered by overlapping steel bands that are literally protective.
The third exhibiting artist, Jim Long, has a series of black-and-white photographs that mostly feature two male nudes. He uses a very small (2" X 3") format to emphasize the-face-to-face intimacy of his subject matter. If these photos are erotic, it is eros at meditative rest, a point reiterated by the artist's accompanying poetic titles. Long's most recent work adds female figures to the groupings while retaining the tight compositional format, making for a jungle gym of limbs.
Deborah Donelson, Scott T. Pina and Jim Long exhibit at the Nye Gomez Gallery, 836 Leadenhall St., through Jan. 11. Call (410) 752-2080.