John Okulick is back with his latest batch of fool-the-eye wooden wall reliefs, on view to April 13. After more than 10 years of making them he's gotten to be such a whiz; the work has the quality of a virtuoso juggling act that can only get better by putting ever more balls in the air.
Open circle segments, balls and triangles tumble into shapes that appear fully three-dimensional when in fact they hug the wall pretty closely. Most have a busy, architectonic sense of motion like a speeded up film of traffic racing around a freeway interchange.
So much energy and entertainment are afoot it seems almost ungrateful to notice that there is something awry. It's not that they are just mechanical and mindless like work by Victor Vassarely, although there is some of that. You get the feeling Okulick cares about the issues he raises. His color, for example goes from brash daylight hues to dark evening grays, so a piece like "Skyline" begins to read as an atmosphere-enshrouded cityscape.
What is finally wrong is a sense that everything is so calculated that you might as well be watching television. Okulick works so hard he makes the audience passive, cheerfully allowing itself to be manipulated. What is really no accident is that these shapes and colors so often look like Playskool blocks in a nursery. Its the kind of art that just makes us into happy infants jollied up by the folks.
The odd piece in the show is "Silent Thunder" where a carved horse trots through all the abstract stuff. It's like a preview of coming attractions saying, "Watch for J.O.'s next show when he'll steeplechase through hoops of fire as the original Neo-Folk Op artist!"
It sounds too trendy, but it could open a fresh direction for an artist who has carried his talent to a culmination of Rococo play.
On view to Saturday is a new set of 14 etchings and lithographs by Joe Goode. Based on the theme of a forest fire, they could be either that, Abstract Expressionism going up in smoke or sections of Japanese screens. Collectively, they are lushly Baroque, but individually, only nuances separate one from another. They border on being overblown but Goode, thank goodness, still has the energy to keep them alive. (Asher/Faure, 612 N. Almont Drive.)