Barbara Price, brushing up against new, colorful horizon

April 07, 1993|By John Dorsey | John Dorsey,Art Critic

When an artist changes direction radically, there may ensue a period not so much of transition as of feeling one's way into the new means of expression. And that's what I think is happening with Barbara Price, judging by her nine paintings in the current Artshowcase exhibit.

Two years ago, Price showed a group of waterlily paintings at Loyola College that were striking because they dealt with such formal concerns as surface, space and color, and managed to be ruminative as well: They suggested musings on the nature of beauty and our response to it.

In her artist's statement accompanying the current show, Price says her sojourns in Italy over more than a decade have led to a fascination with aspects of the interplay of architecture and landscape -- the enclosed vs. the vista, aspects of color and light, and so on.

It was not until last summer, however, after a period in which her impressions became thoroughly internalized, that she began to make art based on her Italian observations. These new paintings, then, may be taken as the first products of her response, and they are indeed quite different from her earlier work.

The new works consist of geometric areas of color, often modulated, with certain suggestions of representational elements: the intimation of a horizon, a window, the edge of a wall.

As examples of work in a new mode they are not without interest, and Price does create sensual effects with her color. But these new works also lack that deeper level one sensed in Price's earlier work, and so they cannot be called as successful.

They can be very attractive, if one wants to respond to their colors; but in purely abstract terms their compositions do not produce a satisfying tension, and if they are the result of rumination it does not make itself clear.

In a way, Price's new work is the opposite of what went before. The waterlilies were representational works with certain suggestions of abstraction, whereas these new works are essentially abstract with certain hints of landscape.

Obviously Price has made a bold break with the past, which requires considerable courage. If these initial paintings indicate that it has not yet paid off, they also make one want to see where the artist will go from here.

ART REVIEW

What: Barbara Price paintings on exhibit.

Where: Artshowcase, 336 N. Charles St.

When: 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays. Through April 30.

Call: (410) 783-0007.

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