A review of contrasting and complementary works by Charles Emerson, a wizard with color, and Guy Anderson, whose pieces are more subdued.
Two strikingly different artists complement each other’s work in Sisko Gallery’s “Northwest Masters: Charles Emerson, Guy Anderson,” on display through May 3.
Charles Emerson — who studied with artist Josef Albers, author of the influential “Interaction of Color” — is a colorist extraordinaire. His abstract oils-on-canvas have a bold, intricate drama to them. Some seem a direct response to landscape, while others focus on something more inward: a memory, a mood, a fantasy, a reflection on a relationship.
Their variety of shape, sweep and color combination is downright lavish.
‘Northwest Masters: Charles Emerson, Guy Anderson’
11 a.m.-5 p.m. Fridays-Sundays through May 3, Sisko Gallery, 3126 Elliott Ave., Seattle (206-283-2998 or siskogallery.com).
“Entering the Valley” flirts with the figurative in its title, but keeps its mysteries felicitously intact. A soft floating sculptural entity, comprising every hue of green, seems to dominate a rust-orange mountainscape with a sunset sky behind it. But a second look suggests you might be taking in an overhead view of a rather psychedelic topographical map.
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Straight green lines connected by small pink dots angle across it, hinting at navigated routes. The overall ambiguity — what are you looking at, and what’s your vantage point? — is visually entrancing.
In “A New Paradigm,” the mixture of colors, paint textures and shapes is both seductive and complex. There seem to be several kinds of activity unfolding at once: a standoff or attack between shapes and colors “ripping” through other shapes and colors, while simultaneously connecting with, or retreating from, one another. The effect is symphonic in its fluid, shifting detail.
“Trajectories of Angels” and “A Thousand Tambourines of Crystal Wound the Light of Daybreak” find Emerson exploring a fantastical vein of textures and ideas in a near-synesthetic fashion. A tambourine’s shattering-metal sound is suggested by brightly outlined fragmented planes of glass that float across a void both luminous and shadowed. In “Trajectories,” irregular auras of brightness, leaving threadlike luminescent “contrails” behind them, appear to be the angels of the title, flitting around a dark heaven that’s thick with rusting asteroids.
Emerson’s gift is in making color and varied brush stroke suggest so much. Sometimes it’s something light and whimsical. In other cases — as in “All Through the Night,” with its bruise-dark towering mountainlike declivities — it’s something lurid and ominous. (Emerson will give a talk at 10 a.m. Sunday, March 29, at Sisko.)
Guy Anderson’s pieces, all from one collection, are more modest and intimate. Most are block prints showing a strong Northwest Coast tribal influence, while also evincing some of the playful spirit of Paul Klee. “Salish Songs” and “Four Corner Pursuit and Lamentation of the Great Whale” are specific in their references to local indigenous “formline” traditions.
Anderson employs a softer edge in an untitled water-media-on-toned-paper work, where chubby floating bodies careen around a bright, boulder-filled void. Another untitled work, this one oil paint on brown paper, suggests dimly lit seas, glowering skies and mountain-bluff silhouettes fusing into a single turbulent entity.
“Columnar Basalt,” a large tall oil-on-panel that is the aspiring centerpiece of the show, is duller in design and hue. But all of its smaller companion pieces on paper have the charm of spontaneous vignettes.