VISUAL ARTS REVIEW: Gary Grier & Lou Stovall 

Vibrant Worlds: Two artists with two visions of the region are exhibited at the City Gallery

Gary Grier: A Room Full of Mirrors and
Lou Stovall: Artist and the Landscape
Through March 9
City Gallery at Waterfront Park
34 Prioleau St.
(843) 958-6484
www.charlestoncity.info

History is full of groundbreaking artists. To celebrate that artistry, along with Black History Month, the City Gallery at Waterfront Park opened Friday an exhibit of works by Gary Grier and Lou Stovall.

Stovall is a Georgia-born artist who has been printing silkscreen images for years. The images glimpse a vibrant world, and highlight an artist in command of his craftsmanship. "Spring Showers V-Major" is a large silkscreen monoprint that hangs from the wall like a framed rush of multi-colored static. The sky in the print's landscape is a rectangle of yellow and blue vertical lines. The lines descend into a valley sliced by brown, red, and orange. A thick field of green rises powerfully into view. It is wild and rough and completes an image that honors the season of rebirth with thousands of distinct colors.

In "Rapture," that plush color is drained and replaced with a pencil's dry sketch. The graphite drawing depicts a swarm of fluttering birds. Wings blend into breasts and beaks into claws. The swarm fills the sky and forms a feathery cloud cover. The intricate pencil sketches pull you closer, and you feel lifted by a pleasant vertigo.

Stovall investigates more of nature's landscape with "Origin." Another graphite, this drawing traces a stream's lineage from a mountain range. The water winds through cypress and sequoia trees and depicts the natural course of an unpolluted world. These drawings, along with his silk screens, showcase Stovall's precision and celebrate the environments from which he gains inspiration.

Environment is also inspiration for Charleston native Gary Grier, winner of the 2007 Lowcountry Artist of the Year Award. Where Stovall is exact on a miniscule level, Grier's talent lies in his broad brushstrokes.

His paintings are classical, timeless except for their accurate depictions of contemporary culture. Many paintings capture Charleston residents and neighborhoods. Viewers will encounter the streets they often walk, the people they often see. The paintings' rich, deep hues rise and fall like steady breaths, bringing their subjects to life.

"High Noon" shows a young man riding his bicycle. The man steers with one arm, the other dangles nonchalantly. He is shirtless, and his boxer shorts creep into a bunch from the back of his shorts. His bright new sneakers contrast with the dried color of the overheated rooftops. The whir of the bike's tire spokes slows the image into a recollection. Suddenly you are sweating in summer's heat, looking for the sidewalk with the best shade.

The paintings also have a religious quality. The subjects appear reverent as they stare from the back porch or turn their faces to the sky. Grier has studied his community's concerns, blessings, and shortcomings. Many of my fellow viewers were quiet, their mouths left slightly open in appreciation. I enjoyed the recognition I found in his paintings and was taken aback by one in particular.

It was called "Perseverance," a painting of a woman with a determined frown. She has her mouth drawn tight and her eyes glance into the distance. The sunglasses on the crown of her head reflect a bright, empty world. She is calm yet concerned, preoccupied by the personal issues that resonate with every last one of us. I looked into her eyes and wondered what was on her mind. Then the woman next to me said, "It's lovely. Isn't it?"

"It's you," I said. "In the painting."

The woman smiled, "that was on Cannon Street."

"How does it feel to be famous?"

"Well," she said, "that depends on how famous this painting makes Gary."

As the City Gallery honors Black History Month, it also hosts a young man painting his own artistic history.


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