Sunday, July 31, 2005

Article: Free Times, November 22-28, 2006

By Mary Benz Gilkerson 
NOVEMBER 22-28, 2006

A Feast for the Senses

A review of Vista Lights, an annual gallery crawl held Nov. 16in the Vista. 

A variety of different venues some galleries and some retail spaces that incorporate exhibition space showcased work by many local artists in the annual fall open house for the Vista last Thursday night. 

The Vista Arts and Antiques District has been shifting and changing lately. For almost 20 years, it has been the hub of the Columbia arts scene. That hasn't changed dramatically yet, but signs are there that change is on the way. 

Those shifts were evident in this year's Vista Lights event. Some galleries have closed or moved. Cameo Gallery, a longtime Vista resident, has moved across the Congaree River to West Columbia. Gallery Two is a thing of the past. On the other hand, if Art Gallery has opened just down from the former Cameo spot on Lincoln Street.
With the rapid development of the area between Lincoln and Huger streets, empty spaces for temporary exhibits and installations of the kind that have been a part of Vista events for years have dried up. 

With the Vista (and Columbia) booming with corresponding increases in the cost of space, watch for the natural development of satellite arts areas: Rosewood (SoRo), Meeting Street in West Columbia, Five Points and Devine Street. After fits and starts over the last couple of years, Columbia may end up with a multi-layered arts scene yet. 

The exhibits that stood out Thursday night were at three Vista mainstays I. Pinckney Simons, City Art and Vista Studios, New Crop, New Art at Gallery 80808/Vista Studios is a survey of work by the resident artists Ethel Brody, Pat Callahan, Stephen Chesley, Jeff Donovan, Heidi Darr-Hope, Pat Gilmartin, Robert Kennedy, Susan Lenz, Sharon Licata, Laura Spong, David Yaghjian and Don Zurlo. The show is strong, even if a bit crowded. 

Chesley and Donovan are newcomers to the studios but are hardly new to Columbia. Moving into a new space seems to have energized both artists. Chesley's new paintings are dark and spare, more immediate in the paint application. The color depth and the viscosity of the paint pull the viewer into his evocative landscapes. 

It's impossible to tell which is impacting which in the interplay between Donovan's paintings and clay pieces. They seem to be feeding each other in equal measure. The absurdity of the human condition plays out with a measured dose of irony and humor. 

Humor is also a major component of Yaghjian's recent work. In these acrylics on paper, he presents the viewer with a series of autobiographical musings on midlife that feature his own figure as the main subject. Some are farcical, but a number of them have a tension that comes from dark comedy. In "Old White Rapper" the figure of the man dissolves into the background, ghost-like against the darkness. 

Zurlo's work has not been seen in Columbia as much as it should. His paintings are completely non-objective, with an approach to color that creates compositions that are either at a full blast of intensity or so subtle that they are tonalist. 

The open house and gallery walk may have been Thursday night, but the art in most spaces will still be on view for the next couple of weeks. 

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