By Nancy R. Elliott
The Herald Bulletin
ANDERSON — Black and white are at the heart of the exhibit that opened last week at The Anderson Center for the Arts. “Either Side of Gray” demonstrates the volumes that can be spoken with the two primal colors and the range of voice achieved in their blending.
“I love the fact that it really focuses on how much expression and emotion can be evoked with just black, white and the value scale,” said Deborah Stapleton, director of the center. The show is culled from the center’s permanent collection with works spanning more than four decades. “This is one of my favorite shows because it says so many things and people can relate at different levels.”
While first impressions yield a subdued response in the viewer, individual study of the works demonstrates a rich variety of technique, media, subject matter, detail and inspiration.
Stapleton noted that viewed from a distance, in the rotunda of the building, the exhibition imparts elegance. A recent wedding reception held in the venue tapped into that elegance.
At the same time, Stapleton points out, “On closer inspection, there’s so many different feelings, emotion, expressions conveyed.” The works range from lighthearted and even funny to dark and disturbing or beautifully thought-provoking.
Visitors are drawn to two intaglio works by Bruce McCombs, where rich detail pulls the viewer in to scenes that grow more and more complicated under study. “Gulliver’s Packard” initially gets one’s attention with a classic car that dominates the large-ish work. Once arrived, however, the startling wealth of action and information in the piece absorbs the viewer.
“These things are very, very detailed,” said Stapleton. “He’s almost like a genius in working on proportions and lines and getting the details right.” She points out that it’s not an easy process either. “You have to think backwards.”
Stapleton mused about McCombs and the other artists represented in the exhibit, “There’s just a mastery of technique. Some of the things you look at and say, ‘How did that person achieve those effects?’”
One corner of the exhibit features detailed woodcuts, including Alred P. Maurice‘s intricate tree branches in “Tree and Railing.”
“How did he make that happen without the wood splintering away?” asked Stapleton as she pondered the ultra-thin lines in the piece.
For all of the intense detail of some of the works in “Either Side of Gray,” others are precious in their simplicity or point of view.
“Portrait of Ann” is a simple study that takes a unique perspective on what constitutes a portrait. Even better, the work is loaded with the energy and tension. Though we never see Ann’s face or head, we learn much from this careful rendering of a dancer, and feel poised for the subject’s anticipated motion.
Two works by Colen Self take us to each end of the spectrum. In “Prelude to 1,000 Objects No. 3,” we are invited into the soothing calm of the white space, interrupted by an occasional enigmatic blur. In etching No. 6 of the same series, we step into the mighty congestion of a surface covered by countless renderings of similar small blobs.
Charles Massey’s lithograph “Secret’s Tease 2-3-4-5” takes a simple study of dominoes, plays with shadow and shapes, and surprises us.
Brian Paulsen’s engraving “Houses Hiding” delights us by forcing us to reinterpret what we see, and to question the dimensional world on the page.
In all, viewers can take in a diverse collection of about 40 works of intaglio, lithograph, woodcut, charcoal, graphite and more, with subjects running the gamut from landscape to portrait to abstract.
The exhibit has been thoughtfully staged to offer progression between pieces, and makes an engaging, restful escape to either side of gray. The exhibit is open now, and runs through Sept. 29.
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If you go What: Either Side of Gray art exhibition Where: Anderson Center for the Arts, 32 W. 10th St., Anderson When: Now through Sept. 29. The gallery is open Tuesday through Sunday, weekdays opening at noon, Saturday at 10 a.m., and Sunday at 2 p.m. Each day, the center is open until 5 p.m. Admission: $2 for adults, $1.50 for senior citizens, $1 for students, $5 family rate. Children 4 and under are free. Every Tuesday is free; the first Sunday of each month is free. Guided tours are available by arrangement, and group rates are available. More info: Check out the website at www.andersonart.org or call 649-1248.