The Alchemy of Art 

Hindman, Knoote, and Bomar work magic.

The artists of the Second Floor Contemporary exhibit "Kim Hindman Eric Knoote Carolyn Bomar" engage in a bit of artistic alchemy. For Hindman, it's mind over matter. Knoote moves the earth. Bomar transcends the universe.

Hindman's 10 small to mid-size drawings and two small polymer gravure prints explore the mind and the body. Of the drawings, her six green-tinted female nudes (untitled graphite and dry pigment on paper) are masterworks of ambiguity. Receptive, passive, lackadaisical, sensual, fertile -- all these readings are possible for the thin-armed, large-thighed figures listing to one side or the other. Hindman cites Egon Schiele, Marlene Dumas, and Nathan Oliveira as artistic influences, and there are hints of physical and emotional distress in her work. Each of these drawings contains one nude figure who is often faceless and handless, with emaciated arms hanging limply or draped along her body.

Hindman's polymer gravures, also untitled, are particularly unsettling. The figure in one of the prints is hunched forward in an unnatural posture. She is armless, and dark black smudges eradicate her head and stain her left buttock. The artist's execution of the second polymer print approaches Matisse's ability to describe mass with an economy of line. It also suggests that passivity, untempered by other attributes, can have unsettling consequences. Here is the same bent-over figure with thin arms plastered against the sides of her body. Her thighs have grown enormous in a work that, in part, serves as a cautionary tale in which a faceless, handless, armless, hunched figure turns into an amorphous lump of clay.

In his series of nine small watercolors, Dutch artist Knoote synthesizes his homeland's most distinctive features into haunting abstractions. In one of the most striking of these 10-by-14-inch works (all untitled), black grids crisscross and frame tiny portals streaked with royal blue and lemon yellow. These tiny rectangles are not the obsessive repetitions of Agnes Martin or the dizzying designs of Op art. They are not the two-dimensional color grids of Piet Mondrian, another Dutch artist, who also worked and lived in this flat country crisscrossed with canals. The yellow and blue splashes of color look like seascapes and fields of grain seen from a great distance and reflect spatial devices used by 17th-century Dutch masters to create the illusion of whole worlds seen through small windows.

Two other particularly evocative works from Knoote are concentrated shorthands of Holland's flat fields, canal systems, and wide-open vistas. Holland's forests were denuded centuries ago, and in these semi-abstractions, clouds, waterways, and meadows spiral together into deep green ovals that float in pale atmospheres above multiple red suns or an occasional wisp of a tree.

Using her love for both printmaking and science, Bomar explores the edge of the known universe with artwork she describes as "attempts to apprehend the underlying beautiful mystery of nature." Her three most recent works are 18-by-18-inch monoprints that look like nebulae billowing (Cutaway #2 and #3) and amoebae dancing (Cutaway #1). Her 15 small polymer gravure prints (6-by-6 inches) also bring to mind energy unfolding at macro and micro levels -- like satellite images of galaxies or clouds of electrons circling nuclei seen with the most powerful microscopes. The images vary almost imperceptibly from one print to the next as Bomar exercises her and our ability to perceive subtle changes in form and light. The artist's Obscure 1-5 are five polymer gravures enhanced with subtle pastels. These small haunted worlds glow with faint light (pale flesh tones and lightest burgundy). They bring to mind Mark Rothko's dark color fields painted late in his life when he was terminally ill and straining toward the sublime. As in all the works in the exhibition, Bomar's abstractions are nevertheless elegantly grounded in nature.

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