The range of artistic expression in the exhibition "Devise and Evolve" at the Brand Library is immediately visible. From explosions of color in paintings by Mary Addison Hackett to color management in Janet Bothne's two-piece diptych paintings; in minimalist sculpture by Alice Clements to abstract sculptural inventions of Julie Schustack, contrast defines the theme.
Hackett exposes herself artistically with no pretense. Her work cannot be confined by the "isms" that define artistic movements, because she crosses disciplines fearlessly with the genuineness of movement makers like Arshile Gorky and Willem de Kooning, icons of modern art. Abstract Expressionism (nonobjective art), in which artists seek to allow the unconscious to be expressed, is her strength.
At the end of the entry hall, the outside gallery wall is plastered with Hackett's work. In "Linking Room," the artist uses a color palette that de Kooning would envy. Glass-like panels shatter across the canvas, giving a Cubist depth of field. Hackett layers color, line and texture, resulting in illusions for viewers to ponder. It is nonobjective, without recognizable forms, just action and expression of the artist's busy brain.
Hackett's unfettered use of color and texture is contrasted by Bothne's taming of it. Two-piece (diptych) canvases stabilize the vibrant colorful acrylics, spectacularly blended, and reflected from one canvas of the diptych to the other. Mostly horizontal, volatile striations of complementary color are interrupted by the space between the two canvases.
Bothne implies that this could represent the interruptions that occur in life. The back wall of the gallery is uniformly lined with Bothne's diptychs that are striking, varied and lyrical, yet stable within their structures, like great movements of music.
A couple of her paintings detour from the formula. In "Hopes of Homem," the artist's "interruption" idea is presented as a milky cloud that hides the clarity of the horizontal striations.
"Counting Color: The Census Project," a nonobjective exercise in color on un-stretched canvas, has a checklist of colors written along the left edge. The nonobjective painting becomes abstract (recognizable but simplified forms) because we now identify its function as a list. The two sculpture exhibitors are antithetical. Clements has only four pieces in the show. The interesting pieces are her plaster minimalist works ??? "Plaster Block" and "Plaster Slab" ??? meant to evoke a sense of incompleteness. They are "installation art" meaning that they are related to the environment into which they are installed. The artist designs the site.
Tucked into the far corner of the main gallery, both plaster pieces look lonely and unfinished, as though the sculptures they are meant to support have yet to be delivered. The empty space is part of the presentation. The title plaque is at a distance on the wall, adding to the mystery. Clements is successful in her provocation.
The other end of the sculpture spectrum is Schustack's constructivism. In "Musical Chairs," parts of chairs, music boxes and plaster bells are assembled to create something whole. The artist's theme is "problem solving"; a chair with two short legs is completed by adding parts of other things that serve to solve the problem.
"Devise and Evolve" is well designed to retain the viewer's interest. The painters are contrast for one another, as are the sculptors, which results in an excellent array of abstraction and Abstract Expressionism.