The huge new Titus Gallery debuts with enthusiasm.
Thursday, December 9, 2010
Artist Mary Titus says her Titus Contemporary Gallery at the Monterey Marriot is about 600 square feet. She could fit about six of them inside her newly acquired 4,100-square foot space in Carmel. (After she signed the lease and explored the place, she even discovered another room in the basement she hadn’t seen before.) The main room is clean and long, like a huge hallway of a new mansion. The floor rises up a ramp, like a split-level ranch house. Downstairs is Titus’ creatively chaotic work studio. Set off from there, there’s a room where she plans to conduct workshops.
Back upstairs, the gallery’s walls are partitioned and bracketed with walls that divvy up the floor plan for the paintings of Titus and John Mason, and the sculptures of John Chappell, Yuri Ordjoniki, Sharon Maney LoManto and Reza Bassiri.
Titus’ paintings are a lot like her: spontaneous and colorful. She begins them with no “preconceived ideas,” the colors selected according to her mood, although she says she doesn’t care much for green. They are mostly abstracts, with faint hints of recognizable objects, landscapes and people.
She channels her brushstrokes in a method that could be described as a conversation. Once she left an unfinished painting and, upon returning, saw something she hadn’t spotted before: “There’s a blue dress!” She consciously added two shoulder straps and “Devil with the Blue Dress” was born.
A lush, 5-foot-by-6-foot blue, white and gray painting called “Tidepool” kind of conjured itself.
“I was painting something and it looked like rocks so I said, ‘OK, they’re rocks.’”
One frame delivers nebulous swathes of colors arranged in careful chaos. Other pieces evoke the Asian, African and Arabic countries she’s visited. There are craggy textural veins, like tree roots pushing up from the ground. “Tidepool” is coated with marble dust for texture. The paintings are treated with a varnish to add a sheen and bring out the colors. There are objects – sheet music, newsprint, scrolls – embedded in some of them. A signature painting named “Storyteller” contains African money, pages from an old passport and a letter written in Arabic given to Titus when she taught Princess Nouf of Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, to paint.
Another painting, “New Beginnings,” lent itself to different interpretations. I saw a woman ascending from a cloud toward an archway. Marilyn Wykoff, a collector of Titus’ work, saw the archway as a planet; her husband, Victor, saw the “woman” as Icarus. Titus herself translated a giant deity reaching out to a woman.
“If you look long enough,” Titus says, “you see stuff.”
Mason says his paintings are done in the “visionary” style of Maxfield Parrish. They are meticulously recreated landscapes of photo-realistic precision.
“I paint by memory,” he says. “It’s more challenging than looking at a photograph… I try to create a place people would like to be.”
Bassiris’ sculptures, done in jade, granite and black onyx, include two visages that look like worn remnants of a bygone civilization. Ozymandias, maybe. Another is a smooth, organic hunk of fossilized sea bed (from off of Santa Cruz) embedded with ancient fossils of augre, shells, cockles and clams that Mason estimates at around a billion years old.
Titus is the artist who brought them together. She is a fun, funny and prolific painter with eyes that look Cheshire cat-sly, and acts with candor and playfulness. It’s a safe bet her ethic of wonder and discovery might well imbibe the grand opening party.
It certainly comes out when she paints. “I just play,” she says. “It’s play time.”