Thursday, July 14, 2005

Article: Free Times, January 2004

arts beat
Group Exhibit Highlights Local Talent

By Rachel Haynie

Four of the area’s strongest visual artists have grouped their work for the second time in an exhibit on display at Vista Studios (Gallery 80808) through Feb. 5. In what is becoming a much-anticipated annual winter exhibit, David Yaghjian, Stephen Chesley, Mike Williams and Ed Wimberly are presenting 50 works that are mostly new. Most of the pieces are on canvas, but there are also works on paper, as well as some metal sculptures by Williams.

Yaghjian paints Columbia scenes as urban reality, a direction he has been pursuing since returning to his hometown a few years ago after years spent painting and exhibiting in Atlanta. Instead of representing only the capital city’s more glamorous architecture, he captures stark corners and deep shadows from North Main to Senate Street and Millwood Avenue, then ventures into residential areas such as Glenwood Avenue in search of familiar structures to render disquietly.

A few of Yaghjian’s works on display depart from the Columbia theme, instead revealing influence from his recent arts residency on Pritchard Island. Williams also had a residency on the barrier island a summer earlier and, like Yaghjian, has since incorporated elements of Palmettos into his works. Williams also abstracts myrtles, marshy backswashes and islets, always returning to his signature fish motifs.

Such native coastal imagery also dominates Chesley’s works. He captures the sea islands’ mystique in large-scale paintings of elongated horizons at dawn and dusk; the scenes appear to have been viewed from across marshes. The titles of a number of his lush pieces include the word “slight,” implying that he caught the light or mood in plein air, just at its transition. In addition to 18 lush landscapes for which Chesley has become known, this exhibition also includes an homage to the French post-impressionist Paul Gauguin, who died one hundred years ago.

Wimberly, a St. Matthews artist whose reputation centers largely on his unique portraiture, returns for this show to his other well-known style, often described as Southern gothic surrealism. In two of his larger works, he has floated parts of a wooden artist’s mannequin, using the segmented pieces as one central visual element.

This exhibition represents an independent venture by Columbia artists to take their work to patrons and prospective patrons. During the first few minutes of the opening reception, several well-known local collectors were perusing the gallery, noticeably pleased by what they were seeing. Both quality and value were mentioned; one collector said if the same pieces were offered in the Charleston market, the works could command considerably higher prices.

This show represents an opportunity for Columbians to view artistic talent that might someday become part of contemporary art history, in the way that a group show featuring works by Charles Sheeler, Edward Hopper, Rene Magritte, George Iness and David Smith might have been an artistic benchmark in a previous century.

This exhibit is on display through Feb. 5. The artists will be in the gallery on Feb. 1 from 3-6 pm.  Appointments can also be arranged by calling 252-6134.

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