A show of power and grace at Gomez

April 08, 1997|By John Dorsey | John Dorsey,SUN ART CRITIC

James von Minor is probably best known to local audiences for his sculptures, works of severe beauty produced from everyday materials such as concrete. His current exhibit at Gomez shows him a similarly accomplished painter. These works have deep roots in 20th-century art.

The use of blue, black and mustardy yellow in some of these paintings achieves an austere harmony of colors that recalls some of Matisse's most abstract works of the 1910s. The occasional stripes and the drawn arcs that imply circles strongly suggest Jasper Johns. So do von Minor's use of gray and the subtle sensuousness of his brush stroke. His surfaces stop short of the voluptuousness Johns achieves, but they are nevertheless quietly seductive. And the geometries of his compositions, with their balanced asymmetries, bring to mind the landscape-based abstractions of Richard Diebenkorn.

It is possible to read landscape into some of von Minor's paintings here, but just as well not to. These work best on a non-referential level, and the trefoil shapes that the artist frequently employs need not be read as either cloverleafs or references to church windows. They're visual devices, a little less severe than a square or a circle. They work as a focus for the eye and a decorative element that provides a foil for the sparer regions of the painting.

The greatest distinction of von Minor's works lies in the sense of rightness they convey to the viewer. These are obviously the product of long thought, and every aspect of them has been carefully considered.

They remind you of Johns' famous statement that there is no such thing as chance in his paintings. If a drip occurs, he decides whether to let it stay or to paint it out, so if it stays it stays by choice and not by chance.

With von Minor one has a sense of that kind of control, but that doesn't mean -- as it might imply -- that these are nothing but lifeless exercises perfectly carried out.

On the contrary, they are the products of an artistic sensibility that continues to deepen with the years, and they have a large measure of quiet satisfaction to offer.

With the current show, Gomez has opened a new space behind the main gallery. It will be primarily devoted to photography, but this month it's home to the drawings and prints of vegetal forms by Susan Due Pearcy.

The drawings, called "Field Series," are distinguished by Pearcy's touch, which combines strength with delicacy; her fine sense of color, which makes these seed pods and similar forms look like the products of the earth that they are; and her ability to create forms that are at once bold and curiously lyrical.

They suffer a little from being placed so close together on this small gallery's walls. Seen in isolation, each one would likely make an even stronger impression than it does here.

James von Minor, Susan Due Pearcy

Where: Gomez Gallery, 836 Leadenhall St.

When: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays, noon to 5 p.m. Sundays, through April 19

Call: 410-752-2080

Pub Date: 4/08/97

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