Although the summer art season is over, there’s a fresh exhibit from a bright newcomer on the block: Bridgehampton’s Julian Beck Gallery. The venue itself is eye-catching, with the second floor presenting works by Marilyn Church, Alex Russo and Roz Cole where the space is pleasantly light and airy. And while these works seem different, they often possess common characteristics, notably their focus on figures and texture. Thematically-speaking, they also all attempt to “reveal” what lies beyond surface reality/nature.
Church has always featured the human figure, perhaps starting from her drawings of individuals involved in court trials. Her emphasis on non-verbal aspects was most important in these instances: facial expression, posture, gesture, eye contact. Environment, too, was salient. Such articulation continued with Church’s series showing women in a theatrical setting, where danger sometimes lurked. Again, articulation of the body was evident as was the development of a narrative or story.
In Church’s current series, figures are still prevalent, but they are subtle and abstract, appearing as vertical lines. Her setting is abstract as well, consisting of shapes and assemblage-like configurations. Articulation is there, but it’s in the use of color and texture.
Church’s themes are equally subtle. Titles like “ The Road Less Traveled” and “A Leap into the Unknowable” suggest that reality is a mystery that lies beneath the surface. The artist invites us to ponder this mystery, coming up with a “plot” that recalls her narrative series from the past.
Like Church’s work, most of Russo’s pieces feature the figure, as in “Procession,” where elongated forms represent humans who appear in great pain or physical peril. They can’t help but remind us of Holocaust victims although Russo probably didn’t have this in mind. They are well-defined and delineated, their raised surfaces made of canvas resembling an assemblage, a textural device used by Church as well.
Figures are more subtle in Russo’s “Spatial Configurations,” where colors and shapes blend together. “Lights of Cornwall,” celebrating England’s southwest coast where Russo has spent a lot of time through the years, has its figures, too, but we don’t see them at first. Even so, the more we look, the more we see, as figures come and go, appear and disappear. It’s the artist’s way of also going beyond surface reality, where nature exists for all eternity.
Cole’s figures strike us as boldly different from Church’s and Russo’s human beings. They are spirited and whimsical, even depicting a group of witches and a warlock for our amusement. The artist’s figures seem to float through the air, joyfully going about their merry way.
Yet the theme of going beyond reality shows up in Cole’s work as well when she uses scrambled alphabet letters to spell out words like “love.” The more we look, the more we see here, too.
Works by Marilyn Church, Alex Russo and Roz Cole will be on view at Bridgehampton’s Julian Beck Gallery (2454 Main Street) until Nov. 30. Call 631-613-6200 for hours and other information.