One-Two Punch 

The powerful art of Amy Hutcheson and Jon Lee.

Every once in a while, art stops us in our tracks. There are two exhibits on display now that pack that kind of punch. One is Amy Hutcheson's show, "Straight from the Hip" at Eclectic Eye; the other is Jon Lee's "Lee's Learning Center" at the Jay Etkin Gallery.

click to enlarge Amy Hutcheson's Sunday Afternoon
  • Amy Hutcheson's Sunday Afternoon

Nuanced shadows sculpt the thighs of Hutcheson's reclining nude in the acrylic and graphite painting Sunday Afternoon. The figure's hair drapes along her right shoulder, her right palm lies above her head, relaxed and open. Swaths of muted gray define her shadowed face and chest except for two touches of white that suggest light reflecting off her nose and right nipple.

Hutcheson adds dark reds to this scene of a woman lost in reverie. They wash under her body, drip down her feet and shins, and pool at the top of her thighs, creating an image that can also be read as wounds, crime scene, menses, and/or the throes of passion. Is Hutcheson's palette too exaggerated, over-the-top? Probably not, given the roles of women in history as muse, vixen, victim, fertility symbol, and unclean being (during menses women were often not allowed in holy places). Hutcheson's evocative painting, by turns ironic and disturbing and erogenous, seems to encompass them all.

Through September 6th

Jon Lee's ingenious and, at times, mind-boggling exhibition, "Lee's Learning Center" at the Jay Etkin Gallery, consists of 72 faces that appear to float in cyberspace, seven mixed-media works on canvas, and 200 small paintings-on-panel arranged in groups of 140 ("Great Wall of Boxes") and 60 ("Create-a-Wall").

On first viewing, an exhibition of more than 200 paintings, filled with what Lee describes as a "lifetime of memories," can be overwhelming. Take your time. Some of Lee's small square panels/boxes are masterworks of compressed energy, feelings, and ideas created by an artist who spent several years painting graffiti on boxcars, buildings, and storage sites while also earning a bachelor of fine arts degree from Memphis College of Art.

In one of his most striking boxes (all are untitled and 10-by-10-by-2 inches), billowing red-and-white stripes, sharply angled map coordinates, translucent sharks, aerosol sprays, and acrylic washes capture the look/feel of ocean depths and ships sailing at high speeds to exotic places. In a box crammed with feeling, the wide-open scream of a friend embodies the exultation of life as well as its angst. In a third small work, rich with art history and humor, expressive swipes of green and black paint above the word "abstrak" followed by a question mark bring to mind Franz Kline's abstractions and Rene Magritte's visual puns.

click to enlarge Jon Lee's Why can't I park in the alley v. 1.0
  • Jon Lee's Why can't I park in the alley v. 1.0

Many of the motifs in Lee's art (including farm animals, flowers, tractor trailers, and diesels) are based on objects and creatures Lee often saw during his childhood in the small town of Dumas, Arkansas. In the mid-size canvas Why can't I park in the alley v. 1.0, a diesel truck is a metaphor for power. White stripes surge out of the diesel's roof, and brilliant blues and violets roil like sea waves in front of it. Streaks, drips, and splatters of paint that cross the canvas at every angle create a sense of tremendous tension and constant motion. The stenciled outline of the diesel and several randomly spaced letters and numbers provide just enough structure to keep us on the picture plane.

In one of the largest mixed-media canvases in the show, a goat painted the color of a cloudless sky is surrounded by the artist's signature flowers, numbers, and swoops of paint. The sky-blue creature and the painting's title, The anti_social v. 2.0, suggest both the largesse of mind and the isolation one experiences while working alone in a studio.

The final piece in Lee's gestalt of remembrance, Myspace stencils_72, pays homage to American, European, and Eastern artists with whom Lee shares ideas via the Internet. This work consists of the outlines of 72 of these artists' faces floating in cyberspace-like swaths of white aerosol spray.

A simple gray-green abstraction topped with five white filaments and a black strip next to the letters "DO," also in black (Lee's most concise box), reads like the exhortation to "Do it, just do it." And, indeed, Lee does -- on railroad cars and the walls of abandoned factories, in solo shows in downtown galleries, and in Internet communications worldwide. Like the brilliant blue seas roiling next to his diesel trucks and the clear-blue skies inside his goats, there are no boundaries in "Lee's Learning Center." Everything seems possible.

Through August 22nd

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