Winds of Summer

In "The Mystery Spot," Sweeney is inspired by '50s tourism promotions. The piece is designed like a poster, but instead of using paper and ink, Sweeney takes up marquetry, a wood-working technique in which various veneers are laid in a pattern. On this modernist field, which successfully incorporates both light and dark woods, Sweeney places a pair of leaning women in line drawings done with paint and routing. The women are tourists at The Mystery Spot in Santa Cruz, California, one of those specially constructed buildings that give the illusion that the laws of gravity have been repealed.

Sweeney has taken up the theme of the offbeat roadside attraction many times before, most notably in his 1995 murals America, Why I Love Her at Denver International Airport. These two wooden murals have been an overwhelming critical and popular success, unlike most of the other things in the city's $7 million adornment of DIA.

But not all the artists in Robischon's formally untitled exhibit look directly to popular culture for inspiration. Some, like gallery standard Jack Balas (whose pieces fill one of the front spaces), make references to the recent history of art, which itself has been shaped by popular culture. Pop art from the 1960s, in particular the work of Robert Rauschenberg, is obviously the inspiration for a painting such as "Manifest Destiny" and for its closely related companion "American Dream." Both are recent oil-and-enamel works on large panels of un-stretched canvas that incorporate stripes, typography and an image of a Second Empire-style sofa. Also fiercely compelling is Balas's "(Br)other," a mixed-media-on-paper that again has the Rauschenberg look. In this piece, black-and-white photocopied portraits are placed one on top of the other; in between are small hand-lettered words reading "other" and "brother." Balas unifies the piece by placing a transparent blue wash above a translucent yellow field right down the middle of the composition, through the portraits.

Floyd Tunson also tips his hat to pop master Rauschenberg. In two wall-reliefs from Tunson's Gas Pump series, the artist, using color photocopies, objects and framing, takes up the subject of African-American history. Tunson is a genius with surface effects, and his use of metal mesh screening to soften some of his images is memorable.

The Robischon show features many other well-known artists from the gallery's stable. Hung opposite the Tunsons are four of Jerry Kunkel's interrelated paintings--"Love," "Luck," "Lust" and "Light"--all done in oil and rust on panel. Around the corner is a signature Wes Hempel, "The Mending Hall," an oil on canvas in which a house floats over a meadow. A Lorre Hoffman, displayed next to the Hempel, also is a characteristic piece. Hoffman takes her archetypical house form, executes it in slate, scribbles all over it in chalk and, to carry the schoolhouse imagery still further, places a chalk eraser and sticks of chalk in a wooden holder and attaches it to the front.

One of the only real surprises in this show is the local premiere of Fay Jones, an artist who has a formidable reputation in her native Northwest. Three of Jones's large paintings have been displayed in their own discrete space--and that's a good thing, because they're fairly strange. In her complicated compositions, Jones seems to refer to myriad divergent sources simultaneously. In the stunning diptych "Shades," she uses acrylic, ink and paper on wood to capture an enigmatic scene of figures and donkeys. Her style is both naive and sophisticated as she refers effortlessly to folk art, the comics and post-impressionism. In "Chase," a woman in a white dress strikes a contraposto pose. The impression of the figure contorted in a twist is heightened by Jones's inclusion of a third leg.

Meanwhile, in the newly reclaimed back room, Robischon presents Distant Views, a handsome show that compares and contrasts the landscapes of local legend Joellyn Duesberry with frescoes by the highly regarded Shawn Dulaney. The two women are distinguished by their ability to make paintings that function as both traditional and contemporary pieces.

Both women are painterly and interested in capturing scenery. But each has a distinct style, with Duesberry specializing in the billowing and breathless brush stroke and Dulaney mastering the technique of scrumbling and blending. In "River in Spring," an oil on canvas by Duesberry, the water in the foreground, the trees in the mid-ground and the mountains in the background have been painted with lively, expressive gestures in creamy, strongly hued pigments that clearly distinguish each element. For "Beyond Our Hearing," a tempera-on-plaster fresco, Dulaney rubs and smears her pigments, blurring the distinctions between her pictorial elements of river, mountains and sky.

The two exhibits at Robischon run for another week or so. And though many turns are sure to be in store for the gallery-going public this fall, it's certain that Robischon will remain a place where everyone wants to be--as they have this summer and for the last 22 years.

Untitled Summer Exhibition #22B: Objective and Distant Views, through September 5 at the Robischon Gallery, 1740 Wazee Street, 298-7788.

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