Strong images distinct, but undeveloped

November 12, 1992|By John Dorsey | John Dorsey,Art Critic

Laura Wesley Ford, whose paintings are now on view at Galerie Francoise, has strengths that, with the right kind of development, will take her far.

Her recent paintings, her statement says, "are drawn from the architecture of the industrial and agricultural landscape," but they really balance representationalism and geometric abstraction. Nominally they're representational, but really they're about such formal issues as color, surface and illusion.

nTC "Turn & Vent," for instance, can be thought of as a series of receding planes that stand for buildings, with a row of peaked roofs in the foreground and a row of chimneys in the back, silhouetted against a sky that is half day and half night. But that "sky" changing from dark blue to white halfway across the canvas lets you know that this isn't really a scene at all; it's a two-dimensional study in form and color.

Color is certainly one of Ford's strengths. Her reds and yellows and greens are not only bold, they possess an almost volumetric solidity. That solidity is reinforced by the fact that these paintings are often diptychs or triptychs -- they're painted on two or three separate but adjacent canvases instead of one larger one divided by internal lines. They thus have a kind of objectness which adds to their weight.

Her images are strong, and are not really contained within what you see. Whether it's a building that runs out of the picture, as in "Philadelphia Chicken Plant," or a series of horizontal stripes that seem only to begin at the left end of "Piercing the Bale," Ford implies that there is more there than you can see -- in terms of form, not content -- and that's a virtue.

On the other hand, the marks that she makes are not in themselves particularly varied or interesting yet. There's a sameness about them that makes examining these works up close a bit disappointing.

And there is a certain lack of tension about these images that suggests Ford is not as compositionally sharp as she might be. Distinct areas may not be in the ideal relationship to one another, so that the whole reads a little slack. In "Philadelphia Chicken Plant," for instance, the building that occupies most of the

painting ends, and there's a band of color at the right side of the picture. It's just a little too wide; if it were a shade narrower it would create the needed tension, and the work would be more alive.

But if there is room for improvement in Ford's work, she's good enough now to suggest not only that she could be better but that she will be.

ART REVIEW

What: Exhibit by Laura Wesley Ford.

Where: Galerie Francoise, Green Spring Station, Falls and Joppa roads.

When: 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays, through Nov. 30.

Call: (410) 337-2787.

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