The two halves of "Balance," the first show at Artists Republic 4 Tomorrow's new gallery in Laguna Beach, are both strikingly different and strikingly similar.
A viewer can make the first judgment with critical analysis, the second with a tape measure.
Earlier this year, Torrey Cook, the gallery's co-owner and founder, selected a pair of artists whom she had exhibited in the past and asked them to create a tandem show. The only direction she gave Ben Brough and Katherine Clarke Langlands was to buy seven canvases each that were the same shape and size, plus one large one that they could paint together.
After that, Cook sat back and waited to see what the pair would come up with. She had a feeling their works would complement each other, though, and sure enough, the submissions looked like halves of a whole when they arrived at the new gallery at 1175 S. Coast Hwy.
"Ben and Katherine do a lot of mixed-media work that incorporates collage and types of paint — acrylic and spray paint and so forth," Cook said. "They also have this kind of a cubist flair to their styles, but they're also very different. Ben has a very masculine tone, and Katherine has a little bit more feminine, introspective female figures in most of her works."
"Balance," which opens Saturday and runs through Sept. 29, features Brough's and Langlands' pieces arranged around the gallery, with the collaborative canvas — an abstract pastiche titled "Sweet Jane" after the Velvet Underground song — in the front window. The gallery will open for a reception from 6 to 9 p.m. Saturday with the artists attending.
For Artists Republic 4 Tomorrow, which often abbreviates its name as AR4T, the show represents a move and also an expansion. Cook said the new space is about 200 square feet larger than the previous one at 210 N. Coast Hwy., which will remain open through Sept. 15 with the "Boxes of Death Four" coffin-art exhibit.
Brough, who first exhibited at AR4T shortly after its founding in 2010, said he was "pretty stoked" to help create the first show in the new space. He and Langlands, who came on board this year, met early in the process to discuss the show's concept and occasionally compared notes over the ensuing weeks, but mostly worked separately.
The artists hit upon the concept of "Balance," Langlands said, during the initial meeting when they picked out a yin-yang design in one of her earlier paintings. In addition to gender, she said, the collaborators were divided geographically: Brough hails from Hawaii, she from Vermont.
The contrast between their styles is immediately evident: Brough's paintings in the show feature bold colors and dark, thick outlines, while Langlands' favor mellower tones and figures with book text for skin. In "Sweet Jane," which shows a faceless woman turned toward an object that resembles a psychedelic fish tank, Langlands' artistic world seems to be literally peering into Brough's.
Though she and Brough didn't know each other before they began work on "Balance," Langlands said they've become friends — and a natural team artistically.
"The final pieces do balance each other," Langlands said. "They really look good together. Without the other person's work, it's not the same."
If You Go
Where: Artists Republic 4 Tomorrow, 1175 S. Coast Hwy., Laguna Beach
When: 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday or by appointment through Sept. 29
Information: (949) 988-0603 or ar4t.com