Photo: Dick Crispo''s heavy laying-on of paint is his signature style.
Two new exhibitions strike different poses for local art aficionados: one features a single veteran artist who''s been a part of the local scene ever since cars had fins; the other features a plethora of artists whose varied skills and styles represent a modest cross-section of contemporaneity.
Dick Crispo: Celebrating Spring on the Central Coast at the Carmel Art Association features Crispo''s recent work, while in Pacific Grove the Lisa Coscino Gallery holds its Relocation Celebration! with two group shows and two solo exhibitions. Besides a display of the gallery''s stable of artists, the Coscino Gallery features Nuestros Pintores Preferidos, selections from the collection of popular comedian George Lopez and his wife. The Lopezes, newly settled in Pebble Beach, have built up an art collection comprised largely of Latino artists. Their collection has a noteworthy vitality, what with its ethnic colors and subjects, and one can imagine how it will blossom as the collectors continue to indulge their tastes.
For years Crispo has involved himself locally as an art activist, muralist, practicing artist, art educator, and art ambassador to foreign countries. Most know his work through exhibitions at the Carmel Art Association, on whose board of directors he serves. These exhibitions have been marked over the years by a personal evolution in which the conventions of the landscape format have been slowly absorbed and converted into armatures on which the artist hangs paint. Crispo gives new meaning to impasto, the laying on of paint thickly.
A survey of this exhibition reveals a painter not only knowledgeable about his craft, but also immersed in a mature relationship with form and content. As the artist responds to the view, either en plein air or from memory in the studio, paint is applied to "capture" some aspect, be it the dynamics of a jagged coastline, the effusive color of a field, a turgid sea. These areas of focus are not described in detail, the better to communicate their wonder, but they are felt, and in the impasto is the emotion.
A typical Crispo painting features a few masses of land that might take up the bottom of the picture plane or nose in from stage left or right; there may even be a horizon line. The artist avoids inventive compositions, novel configurations that might speak too much to the external event and thus subvert the artist''s response to place. Forms float on the canvas like clouds, but are anchored by the artist''s layering of paint. The paintings do not so much capture a sense of place with those topical elements that bring the "a-hah!" of recognition. They are, rather, essays in the painting process as the artist establishes his passion for the place.
Like spicy food, Crispo''s paintings are an acquired taste. After the initial impact, flavors linger long afterwards. Crispo''s heavy surfaces assault the viewer, but their complex layers, full of analogous and complementary colors, create a resonance. His landscape paintings are mundane fragments of the eternal world, but because of his mature style, they also reveal Crispo''s internal dialogue with locale.
The relocated Lisa Coscino Gallery, now at 216 Grand Avenue, Pacific Grove, has in its front gallery 20 artists'' works. In any such display, some pieces dominate others because of scale or color or idiosyncrasy. Some of the art asserts itself bombastically, while art works that rely on contemplative spaces are not seen to good advantage, and that is the case with this selection. But, hey, it''s a party to celebrate and get all the artists out on the walls, not a curatorial tour de force.
"Pear," part of Patricia Prescott''s Fruitscapes series at the Lisa Coscino Gallery.
Amid the visual challenge of digesting the show of the gallery''s artists and the Lopez collection, a solo exhibition featuring Los Angeles artist Patricia Prescott stands as a perfect visual and emotional rest. Her Fruitscapes, eight small oil paintings of single or paired pieces of fruit, are serene compositions of muted color that, through their austerity, explore not only the essence of the subjects, but the idea of quietude itself.
Yvette Flores'' oil painting "Otra Cheve Mija" is part of the Lopez collection.
The small panel paintings ("Horizontal Pear" is about 5 by 14 inches) are mounted off the wall and without frames. A fruit sits on a simple shelf or tabletop, casting its shadow down to the bottom edge. No domestic object offers a sense of scale or other association. The fruit, then, looms large in its own universe, enveloped in the air of solitude. This is the chance for meditative study, an embrace of simple detail, like sitting in a Zen garden to experience the essential nature of things.
Prescott''s modest paintings of apples, pears and persimmons are her carefully choreographed gardens wherein the sheen of the fruits skins, the swelling forms, and the delicate shadows are all equal players. The subtle force of the work comes as each simple element reveals itself and its relationship to what''s around it.
All these exhibitions attest to the lively art scene on the Central Coast. Established and emerging artists have developed styles that allow personal responses to the human parade. While Crispo applies layers of paint to create parallels to his experience, others like Prescott make pictures of things to be studied. In the selections from the Lopez collection at the Coscino Gallery, the subjective joy of collecting comes out clearly. Each artist''s work speaks to the owners in ways that perforce make the act of collecting its own personal statement.
Dick Crispo''s solo show hangs at the Carmel Art Association on Dolores Street in Carmel until Aug. 6; The Lisa Coscino Gallery is at 216 Grand Ave. in Pacific Grove.