At a time when tech-heavy techniques are ubiquitous, it’s refreshing to encounter shows at three Minneapolis galleries featuring terrific work in such old-fashioned made-by-hand media as painting, drawing, cut-paper and sculptural ceramics, glass and metal.
Trained as a photographer, Charles Lyon long ago shifted to painting but taps his camera skills when cropping images, focusing on details, shifting scale and playing with light and shadow in the huge, colorful paintings of flowers for which he is rightly acclaimed. Two years ago, however, an encounter with the sculpture of Baroque artist Gianlorenzo Bernini set Lyon on an unexpected detour that resulted in 23 paintings of angels featured in “Rome: Traversing the Sacred.”
The paintings were inspired by 10 sculptures of angels, designed around 1670 by Bernini and followers, that grace the Ponte Sant’Angelo, an ancient bridge spanning the Tiber between secular Rome and the Vatican neighborhood. Their flowing garments, tender gazes and clutch of Christian symbols — cross, nails, crown of thorns — mark them as devoutly Catholic monuments, but Lyon is clearly inspired most by their beauty.
After centuries of exposure, the angels’ marble faces and garments are streaked and stained, effects he deftly imitates with mottled overlays of taupe, sooty-gray and rose. He catches the play of light and shadow across the rippling folds of their garments, their wind-tossed curls and the dreamy look in their stony eyes. He’s even essayed drapery studies of fabric falling from bare knees, a peekaboo effect much loved by Baroque masters.
In new oil sketches in Groveland’s Annex, Carl Oltvedt adds figures to the landscapes for which he is best known — typically a woman strolling through a park, or on a rocky North Shore beach, sometimes with a friend, children or a dog. Looser brush work and more casual compositions — as if the scenes were glimpsed in passing — freshen his work, although his best effects are still light dancing off water or the dappled illumination of dark, leafy glades.
Four Minnesota-based artists float from realism to abstraction in telling “Someone Else’s Story,” as this show is enigmatically titled.
Teo Nguyen limns the brooding poetry of Minnesota landscapes in five paintings that are all gray skies and stubbled fields. With intricately cut white paper, Sonja Peterson creates a lacy tablecloth-sized tableau in which fish swim through tangles of seaweed that blossoms into a leafy aviary aflutter with exotic birds.
Duluth-based Anne Labovitz pays homage to poet Edna St. Vincent Millay by layering graffiti scribbles of her poems into monochrome canvases — typically white-on-white — whose thick translucent surfaces glow like backlit ice. Tetsuya Yamada, who teaches ceramics at the University of Minnesota, has produced elegantly glazed wall panels whose silvery iridescent surfaces are pocked with expressive fingerprints.
Abstraction rules in Circa’s handsome “Winter Salon,” which features beautifully designed paintings and wall sculpture in unusual media (fused glass, painted steel, encaustic panels). The 11 artists are a smartly edited mix of international and American talents with stellar résumés.
Monica Reede offers two delicate oil paintings shimmering with a breath of light; Gretel Stephens channels Mark Rothko into an elegantly stained olive-and-charcoal canvas; Barbara Kreft turns in four clever little abstractions about love, highways, winter and the color pink. Ellen Richman has produced two vibrant abstractions in boldly intersecting bands of cool and warm hues, while Audrey Philips makes weather-evocative patterns from scribbles and stains of floating color.
Anne Ledy’s deconstructed red-steel circle sculptures are meticulously designed and executed. And Seattle-based Carmen Vetter has used powdered glass to stunning effect in wall panels whose mossy-velour surfaces — in puddles of taupe, orange and teal — beg to be touched. But don’t!
Additional pieces include a striped “Shrine” by Juan Alonso, a brooding “Vessel” image by Margaret Fitzgerald, two luminous little encaustic panels by Paul Rinaldi and large black-and-white compositions by Myke Reilly and Jeff Leonard.