"Azul: Contemporary Interpretations In Primary Blue Mood"

Art with an international flavor at B2 Fine Art Gallery

By Alec Clayton on January 24, 2013

I am honored to be in the "Azul" exhibition with five excellent artists at B2 Gallery. I will not write about my own paintings, but will comment on the other artists.

There are some astonishing works to be seen, starting with the all-blue figurative sculpture by Francisco Salgado featured on the show poster. It's like a combination of Henry Moore and Rodin but made of unidentified mixed media, which looks to me like sticks and straw with plaster slathered with cobalt blue paint. It is a strikingly sensual piece that is sadly not well lighted. (I saw it at night; perhaps in daylight you can see it better.) Also by Salgado is a wonderfully mesmerizing little relief sculpture of a bird-like woman dancing and a pair of surrealistic sculpted feet that have morphed into sandals. These are placed on a sculpture stand in an alcove and on the wall behind it is a photograph in an all-blue tint of a woman wearing the sandal feet. The photo was taken by Salgado's wife, Kim Cambpell.

Salgado is Mexican, now living in Portland. It's an international cast of artists. Leonardo Lanzolla is Italian, now living in Seattle; Susana Rodriguez is from Chili; Judy Hintz Cox spent time in Ecuador with the Peace Corps and has shown her art in Peru and Brazil; and finally, William Quinn spent a large part of his life living and working in France.

Lanzolla's "Hearts and Flowers" is an exercise in contradiction, with sweet subject matter painted in a rough manner with impasto paint application that looks like it was troweled on. Red and orange hearts and flowers float in a field of blue, and along one edge is an architectural element that looks like clusters of hillside houses in Italy and partly like a section of a billboard that has been ripped away to reveal layer underneath. This is a very strong painting.

Most of Lanzolla's works in this show, covering a range of styles, are poetic and spiritual, with reminders of Chagall and Picasso. I asked him about the Picasso influence in one of his paintings and he denied it was derived from Picasso and explained the symbolism and meaning of every image on the canvas. Nevertheless, his argument did not convince me. Lanzolo also has a wonderful set of little clay paintings that look like scratchboard drawings with swirling and lyrical lines and a poetic interplay between line and color.

Speaking of line and color, Quinn's "Blue Morocco" is absolutely marvelous. I couldn't take my eyes off it. A camel and Arabian-style buildings in bright colors can be seen on a blue-black background with a delightful peek-a-boo effect of figure and ground. The colors are rich and glowing. Light on dark switches to dark on light. I wish I could own this painting. Quinn is also showing a set of works on paper, which are done in gouache with collage elements. They are abstract and well composed with an exciting variety of shape and mark-making within unifying shapes and color combinations. The best of these is a piece called "Advance Upward."

Cox's paintings are boldly minimalist with a few blue shapes and random-looking marks - some barely visible - on heavy white paint. Her compositions are radical and the balance between objects and open space is tenuous and off-putting in a good way, although a few of them have elements that seem contrived. These are not as good as paintings by Cox that I saw in a previous show at B2, but there is something exciting about these ragged-rugged paintings. Unfortunately the one that appeared to be a tribute to Rothko simply does not work.

Rodriguez's paintings left me wanting something more. They are moody and atmospheric landscapes that look unfinished. They are a lot like Monet and a lot like William Turner seascapes but duller and moodier than either and without their drama or luminosity.


LINK: Conversation with artist william Quinn