Defining geometry in watercolors: plane and simple

September 21, 1992|By Mike Giuliano | Mike Giuliano,Contributing Writer

It's not surprising that Robert Llewellyn and Don Cook, who have exhibited together before, again share a show at the Nye Gomez Gallery. These artists are interested in schematic representations of, respectively, boats and buildings. Though distinctive in their styles, both tend to treat their rendered objects as pure geometric forms.

Mr. Llewellyn, in an artist's statement, mentions the influence of the Chesapeake Bay on his work. His watercolors are anything but pretty representational pictures, however. If anything, the nautical sense is reduced to the outline of what one takes to be a boat. In his watercolor and cattle marker on paper "Shelter Vessel," the picture plane is organized as a blue grid against which a boat stands on end, with an upright oar seemingly holding it up. It's an abstracted, idealized image within a mathematically pure space.

There is a quiet logic to Mr. Llewellyn's use of space. In the mixed media on paper "Vessel & Sail," a penciled grid on the left side of the picture acts as a precise backdrop for an image of a boat standing on end. A blue smudge against the boat is as close as he gets to any watery evocations. The right side of the picture not only is ungridded, but has more vigorous brushwork that seems appropriate for a white sail placed there like a simple geometric reference.

Mr. Cook shares his interest in reducing architecture and form in general to idealized points of reference, but Mr. Cook mines other terrain. He is represented here by watercolors and small-scale metal constructions from two series: "George's Creek," inspired by Appalachian towns well-known to the artist, and "Nemaha Stories," inspired by a trip to Nebraska. Some of his watercolors make use of diptych or triptych formats to further isolate the solitary buildings, but others give a sense of town life. Among the latter, "Hillside -- George's Creek Works" makes good use of a dusky brown palette to depict house forms rising against a cliff; it's as if a minimalist heir to Cezanne decided to consider modest Appalachian houses as planes rising up the picture plane.

The non-populated nature of his building-focused work does not mean that drama is absent, merely that it must remain implicit. In "Fire Triptych -- George's Creek Works," there are flames rising behind the building forms and hence a sense of how people would suffer from such a conflagration. This watercolor also includes a text which reads in part: "The fire was in them from the first. It might lie nearly smothered in the veins of a forgetful generation, but it would inevitably erupt." Mr. Cook refers to fires that smolder underground for decades in coal country, but it's easy enough to think of simmering human passions, too.

Mr. Cook's sheet metal constructions typically offer reductive -- sometimes even slice-away -- views of buildings and thus follow through on his watercolors. "No Trespassing -- George's Creek Works" is a bleak rusted structure with only one small high window, and the house is surrounded by a "yard" of charred wood. It's a depressing scene, but in a detached way.

On display in the office gallery are photographs by Stephen Lawson. Unlike David Hockney's cubistic photo collages, Mr. Lawson isn't concerned with manipulating space within a fixed location. Instead, he wants to show the passage of time either within one place or on a journey. In order to bring this off, he joins together narrow vertical photographic strips, each taken at a specified moment, so that "reading" the photograph from one side to the other is like passing through the day. "Driving From Edinburgh to Glasgow, Saturday 16th November 1986," for instance, maintains a car wheel perspective as the vertical strips convey glimpses of the other cars and attractions seen along the road during a several hour drive.

Watercolors and photographs

What: Robert Llewellyn, Don Cook and Stephen Lawson.

Where: Nye Gomez Gallery, 836 Leadenhall Street, South Baltimore.

When: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays. Through Oct. 10.

% Call: (410) 752-2080.

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