Three artists explore faraway locales and bring their findings to Peninsula galleries.
Thursday, November 29, 2001
Travel, whether to discover an exotic country or return to a faraway home is, for many people, an enduring holiday tradition. This year some travelers may decide to stay put and avoid the current uncertainties associated with long distance journeys. Still, those sticking close to home on the Central Coast can experience vicariously the pleasures of encountering a new locale at three outstanding local exhibits that illuminate the art of place and its rich terrain.
For her first solo exhibit of location work, Monterey photographer Rocío Briceño presents images from the desert state of Rajasthan, India, that glow with intelligence and understanding. Currently on view at the Pacific Grove Art Center, Briceño''s "The Heart of India" features handmade black-and-white prints of photos taken during a trip to India in April, 2000. Her photos seem to locate moments of jewel-like stillness even as the world carries on with its daily activities and concerns. The title of "Unbuckled Shoe" asks us to train our eye on a gentle detail we might otherwise miss. "Archway at Samode" exudes a restful grandeur. In "Three Peacocks" the birds of the photo''s title nearly merge with the darkened silhouette of the tree on which they sit, awaiting the darkness of evening.
Briceño''s photos take the viewer inside a burnished world of intense concentration. "Chasing Camels" freezes a glimpse of pure motion--the camels are already outside the picture frame--distilling our world to its constituent parts: earth, sky, movement, desire.
Painter Jean Tripier Vidovic, whose landscape show "South by Southwest" is showing at the Monterey Peninsula College Art Gallery, also distills aspects of the world into his images, but the principal elements in these works are color and his own memories and private associations.
Born in France and a recent transplant to California, Vidovic shows in his energetic paintings the influence both of his homeland and his newly adopted state. Stylistically, Vidovic pursues a kind of violent "action" painting, in which places are summoned out of bold blocks of color that resonate with the painter''s own subjective experience. In "Yosemite" and "Big Sur #4," the colors themselves are not violent, yet one senses the great, heaving geological processes that have shaped these lands. "San Diego" seems familiar yet fresh, not evocative of any actual view of the city but rather of its atmosphere. In an artist''s statement Vidovic writes, "I paint the idea of the place, not the place itself."
One could, perhaps, criticize some of Vidovic''s paintings for their striking similarity to the works of certain of his artistic forebears--one can''t help but see the dynamic palettes and designs of California painters like Hockney, Thibaud and Diebenkorn, the textural physicality of Van Gogh, the "exotic" range of Gauguin--but this would be ungenerous. Vidovic is a young painter of considerable talent and intelligence. In "Sunstruck, San Juan Mountains," a stirring self-portrait, a man stands directly before the viewer, yet his eyes appear suddenly distracted by something in the far distance, his attention pulled away by the unpredictable magic of place.
In the photographs of Brett Weston, the world seems to be full of places that can be broken up and then reframed and reshaped into careful abstractions of High Modern design and haunting beauty. A new exhibit at the Weston Gallery in Carmel places classic works of Brett Weston, who died in 1993, alongside those of two living photographers, Rod Dresser and Joel Pickford. These images are marked by strong compositional unity and formal elegance. Rhythmically dynamic works such as Weston''s "Tide Pool, Point Lobos" or his "Vancouver Island" continue to startle the eye. Dresser''s photos are more tranquil and harmonious, perhaps reflecting his long tenure as assistant to Ansel Adams.
The real revelation of this show is Fresno filmmaker and photographer Joel Pickford. His ravishing photographs taken in Southern Louisiana employ formal beauty not as an end in itself but as a means to dig deep into the human psyche. In the faces and places he has encountered we see dramatic examples of the ways people build up their world, and the way time takes it down. Pickford is a master at finding the emotional center of his locales, from swamps to cemeteries, old porches to ornate interiors. In one portrait, "George," the subject''s cloudy eyes lead us to wonder: What has this man seen? What can he no longer see? What worlds can we imagine, looking through his fading vision?
Pickford''s superb photographs are concerned with places, cultures, and peoples caught in flux. His Louisiana images remind us that some of our best journeys may be entirely imaginary, inspired by the creative artistry of those who wander the world with open, adventurous eyes.
"The Heart of India" is at the Pacific Grove Art Center, 568 Lighthouse Ave., until Dec. 21. 375-2208. "South by Southwest" is at the MPC Art Gallery, 980 Fremont, Monterey until Dec. 19. There will be a reception at the Gallery on Nov. 29, 12:30-2 pm. 646-3060. "Selected Works of Brett Weston, Rod Dresser and Joel Pickford" opens Saturday at the Weston Gallery in Carmel, 6th Ave. between Dolores & Lincoln, and shows through Jan. 12. 624-4453.