Refreshing, but not much beyond pretty landscapes

November 13, 1993|By John Dorsey | John Dorsey,Art Critic

Kevin Raines' paintings, watercolors and charcoals of the Adirondack Mountain Wilderness reflect a deep love of that great New York state park, and take the viewer on a vicarious trip into a region of mountains, lakes, streams and woods that seem untouched by the disfiguring human presence. In one of his charcoals, "Resting at McIntyre Falls," we can spy his backpack, like an added signature, laid at the base of a tree; otherwise, all is nature.

It's a refreshing experience for an urbanite to visit this exhibit, which overflows Notre Dame College's regular Gormley Gallery and is partly installed in the "gallery" -- really the hall -- of Gibbons Hall elsewhere on campus. But to enjoy Raines' work is not to say it's an unqualified success. This work is pretty much content to be descriptive if not perhaps even a bit cosmetic.

It's hard to believe that the sky arranges itself quite so picturesquely and quite so obediently for the purposes of composition as it appears in some of these works. And while one finds mood in places, one doesn't find much serious rumination on deeper truths. The landscape, for Raines, is the landscape, and sufficient as such.

Within these bounds, one finds a varying level of satisfaction. Raines is best in his smaller, more informal works, especially his watercolors and charcoals. In the oils, and principally the larger ones, a certain sense of occasion seems to grip the artist, with the result that they look overworked-on and somewhat unnatural.

In the smaller works, however, the artist loosens up -- literally as well as figuratively sometimes, with a looser and more noticeable stroke; but in the larger sense they have more life to them, there is more there to respond to.

There is the range of greens, for instance, in "Jordan River Flow," and the feeling of coldness with which Raines endows "Twilight on Elk Lake, Matt's First Paddle" -- the real feel of a late afternoon chill is in this little work. There are the wonderful deep shadows of "Upper Ausable Lake," which seem to get deeper as you look at them.

There is the spontaneity of touch to be seen in the charcoals "Blue Capriccio" and "Hemlock Pool," and the dazzling light of some of the water colors, especially "Step Falls" and "A Climb's Reward." There's the misty beauty of "Moon Over Spencer Pond," the sense of flickering movement in "Sterner Lake," and the atmosphere of "Keene Valley From Spruce Hill" with its little globs of cloud that look not quite natural but whimsically right anyway. If you go, don't skip the Gibbons Hall part of the show, because some of the best work is over there.

In conjunction with the exhibit, tomorrow at 2 p.m. in the college's LeClerc auditorium, Timothy Barnett, executive director of the Adirondack Nature Conservancy and Adirondack Land Trust, and Wayne Klockner, director of the Maryland Field office of the Nature Conservancy, will speak on "Preserving Bio-Diversity on a Global Scale." The lecture is free and open to the public.

ART REVIEW

What: Kevin Raines, paintings and drawings from the Adirondack Series.

Where: Gormley and Gibbons Galleries, Notre Dame College, 4701 N. Charles St.

When: 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Mondays through Fridays, and often open on the weekends as well, through Dec. 10

Call: (410) 435-0100

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