VISUAL ARTS REVIEW ‌ Resurgence 

Unfamiliar Landscapes: Spark Studios spin something different; Robert Lange excels

click to enlarge Robert Lange's oil on linen 'without embellishment,' one of a series of meta-paintings featuring images of people looking at outsized paintings
  • Robert Lange's oil on linen 'without embellishment,' one of a series of meta-paintings featuring images of people looking at outsized paintings

Resurgence
Spark Studios & Gallery
Opening reception July 27 at 6 p.m.
On view through Aug. 30
12 Hagood Ave. 577-6906   

Looking for sculpture that's a tad different? Danny McSweeney's your man. He's been hosting diverse shows since he opened Spark Studios just over a year ago.

McSweeney creates ceramic sculptures that are singular and accessible. As a gallery owner, he invites other artists who want to show "something different" to use his studio or participate in a show. Over time, his vision has developed a loyal crowd and helped his business grow. If anything, his location so far off the tourist trail has helped him to fill a niche: locals looking for ceramics that are more fun than functional.

Resurgence is more out-there than usual thanks to Hank Reisman's use of found materials. "My wife says my work is weird," Reisman says. "I see that as a compliment." His biomorphic constructions include bicycle tires, wings, gears, and saw blades. He also works with balsa and basswood, admiring its malleability. "It's almost like clay," he says. "You can dig right into it and it lends itself to spontaneity."

Reisman is joined by John Davis for this two-man exhibition. Davis also prides himself in going "a long way not to look like anyone else." Like McSweeney, Davis' clay work is more sculptural than practical; by adding expressive faces to some of his ceramics, he enables people to "read things into them that I never thought of."

The Exhibition is another example of a gallery owner trying something different. It's also a tour de force from youthful artist Robert Lange, showing that he can do practically anything within his realist realm. Lange and his wife Megan run a tight business with his eponymous gallery on lower East Bay Street, where Lange's in a position to watch people come and go, look at his work, and relax in his snug gallery. Painting what he sees, he's created a series of meta-paintings set in a gallery where people (often recognizable as local arts scene notables) come and go, looking at Lange's work.

He packs a lot into a modest canvas size (mostly 18-by-18 inches). In his photo-finished style he depicts a stigmatic hand in "There are No Ordinary Moments," a cloud-threatened city skyline in "The Landscape Was So Familiar," a hood ornament in "A Few Precise Seconds," and a whole assortment of other figures and objects.

"Her Nametag Says Hope" uses shades of red and yellow to draw the eye from a tiny viewer's dress to a portrait's hat. In "The Memories Bend," the artist uses different lighting techniques — within the painting, reflected in water, and on two men appraising the backlit subject. "The First Encouraging Words" contrasts the distance between a father and son in the central image with another father holding a much younger son tight as they look at that image. Lange tells just enough of a story to fuel the imagination without passing judgment on a scene.

Although the painted patrons are stationary, they don't look static. Lange paints them so that they look like they've just arrived or they're going somewhere, eager to take a look at the images from a different angle. He's also paid close attention to eye lines — in one piece, the subject looks directly at the viewer; in others, they seem to look away on purpose.

The Exhibition will be on show at RLS through July 31. There are still a couple of paintings on view by J.B. Boyd, another talented young artist who recently wrapped up a solo show there called Trees. His style's slightly rougher than Lange's, providing a healthy contrast to the gallery owner's slick sheen.

The ratios Boyd uses are great: long, stretched-out canvasses for snowy landscapes and lush forests; tall, thin ones for isolated clusters of trees. He makes the frames himself, believing strongly that none of the work should be obscured by its enclosure. Boyd's right. The Trees paintings are too remarkable for that.


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