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Visual Edge: Robert Vogel at the Brick House

Retrospective of drawings and paintings by the longtime UPS art professor

Robert Vogel's "Water Buffalo" hangs at the Brick House Gallery in Tacoma.

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The Brick House is now showing a retrospective of drawings and paintings by longtime (retired) University of Puget Sound art professor Robert Vogel. If you have ever studied in a university art department you will recognize the style of Vogel's art. This is not meant as a put-down but merely as a descriptor: his work is like art department figure drawing everywhere; it is like the work of the Bay Area figure painters of the '50s  - Park, Diebenkorn, Bischoff and Thiebaud. And while I'm engaging in comparisons, I might as well mention that many of the figure paintings look like Phillip Pearlstein without the carefully blended brushstrokes. This is most noticeable in his placement of figures in interior spaces and in his use of patterns.

He's good, damn good at what he does, with a wonderful sense of spatial arrangement and a sure stroke.

A lifetime of work is crowded into the gallery, with nearly 20 paintings hung on the walls plus many more stacked on the floors, and almost 50 drawings tacked up above the paintings. Gallery owner Peter MacDonald wrote: "This man has drawn many miles of lines. His drawings of the figure show lots of body parts, so if that offends you, go no further. However, if you love the figure as much as I do, come have a look. In addition to the major works, there are many reasonably priced smaller drawings to frame yourself."

Mostly they're nudes, all female, but there are also some paintings of animals and still life arrangements. I was particularly impressed with "Water Buffalo."

One of the best paintings is "#3" (not all have titles and not all the labels were up when I saw the show). It is a studio interior with a seated nude on the floor upper left and a table filled with cans stuffed with brushes lower right. The floor throughout is acid green. Above the table, sticks of various colors are strewn on the floor like pick-up-sticks, if I am interpreting this correctly. The artist's point of view changes from overhead looking down at the table to eye-level with the nude. Vogel's use of harsh angles in this one and his placement in space are marvelous.

Two of the nicest works are "Little Abstract #1" and "Little Abstract #2," both easily overlooked in an out-of-the-way spot in the front room.

This is an outstanding exhibition of what I would call much better than average academic drawing and painting.

"ROBERT VOGEL: A LIFETIME OF PAINTINGS AND DRAWINGS," 5-9 p.m. third Thursday, and by appointment, through Aug. 31, Brick House Gallery, 1123 S. Fawcett St., Tacoma, 253.230.4880 or 253.627.0426

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