The works of Mary Page Evans and Tammra Sigler make an interesting combination at C. Grimaldis Gallery, for though they are in some ways quite different there are also comparisons to be drawn.
Evans' big abstracted paintings of gardens, flowers and trees have obvious antecedents in the paintings of the impressionists and in the work of Joan Mitchell. Mitchell's work, however, though it has a lyric strain, tends to be more abstract and tougher than Evans' lusher, softer versions of landscape.
What Evans' work benefits from most here is some unifying compositional element, something to hold the whole together. When it lacks such an element, as in "April Fool," one is left with a painting in which individual passages can be of interest and possess energy, but which on the whole isn't as coherent as it might be. We also have a painting with too much emphasis on pretty and not enough on strong.
"Mt. St. Angelo," on the other hand, has its off-center tree acting as an anchor. In "Janvier," Evans steps back from the extreme close-ups of other works and creates a landscape with a deep central recession around which the other elements cluster. And the two flower still lifes, "Still Life" and "Still Life With Apples," combine Evans' appealing color with a dynamism and tension that amount to an added dimension.
In Tammra Sigler's relatively small monotypes, the color is also notable, but it's harder and more confrontational than Evans'. Add the aggressiveness of Sigler's strokes and scratches and the distortions of figures and objects in her often crowded spaces, and the results are more nearly expressionist in feeling.
Sigler is also at her most effective when her work contains the most tension -- a tension created between filled area and void -- or even a little empty space to provide a foil for all that's going on elsewhere. In places, such as "Kristina and Pi With Jug of Gerbers II," there is simply no letup to the activity of the surface, and the result can be a little suffocating.
In the two works titled "Kristina Seated on Black Chair with Pi I" and "Kristina Seated . . . II" there is a felicitous counterpoint between the extreme close-up of the figure on the left and the opening up of space on the right, complementing a similar counterpoint between warmer and cooler colors. In "Kristina Reading Anne Truitt I" the little breathing space at the top left center is just enough to let the rest of the picture function as it should.
The void, however, need not act as real space; in "Kristina and Pi in White Light" the big triangle of blank white paper at the upper right acts more as blank white paper than as illusory space, but it strengthens by contrast the two dark shapes, and acts as a wall down which the picture's diagonal movement flows.
Both of these artists have made advances in recent years, and it is to be hoped that they will continue to build on those advances.
The show continues through May 31 at the C. Grimaldis Gallery, 1006 Morton St. Call (410) 539-1092.