Grit and Grace 

Work by Estes, McIntire, and Ledbetter.

Jeri Ledbetter, Tessier's Bend II

Jeri Ledbetter, Tessier's Bend II

For his David Lusk exhibition "From Peace Mountain," Don Estes takes birch plywood, vinyl spackling, paint, plaster, and graphite and creates artworks that evoke Barnett Newman's "zips," Mark Rothko's luminous colors, Kasimir Malevich's blinding whites, and Claude Monet's Impressionism synthesized with such originality that the end result is unequivocally Estes.

Each of the seven horizontal bands that make up Peace Mounain 6 is a work of art unto itself. The bottom of the painting, for example, is a haunting piece of Impressionism in which a spring-green spit of land juts into pale-blue water beneath an overcast sky. The impastoed strip of white at the top is so textured, sculpted, and incised, we feel the undercurrent of Estes' thoughts and feelings even in the painting's most understated passage.

A black cloud hovers near the top of Three Days on the Sylamore, and a deep-red line abruptly stops at the center of the work. These elements suggest not only physical but emotional terrain in which key memories — dark passages, shared passions, and moments of joy — are reexperienced as Estes creates his art.

Five of the works in the show represent an entirely new direction in which Estes draws faint lines across the surface of delicately textured 16-by-16-inch squares of plaster created in clay molds. Estes blows powdered graphite onto the plaster pieces, washing some of it away, stroking what remains with bare fingers to create endless variations of white, off-white, and subtly shadowed surfaces. Day flows into day, sensation into sensation, structure feels less important, and each nuance is noted.

At David Lusk through November 25th You'll find a full range of female forms in John McIntire's current exhibition at Perry Nicole Fine Art, including the svelte hips and full bosom of the dark-walnut sculpture Henry's Number One Lady, the milky-white, triple-jointed marble limbs of Georgia, and the Rubenesque buttocks in McIntire's limestone torso titled Sandy.

What makes this show one of McIntire's strongest are the figures that are quirky and cutting-edge as well as sensual. What looks like both an oversized phallus and cranium thrusting up from Sandy's derriere suggests the same energy that impassions the body and the mind. Breasts on top of buttocks on top of craniums in the marble piece Teresa look totemic, or she could be the talisman of some ancient shaman summoning all the power in the universe that he can imagine. Sky Watcher leans slightly forward as she opens herself up to the universe. Her iridescent white form and small high breasts look more ethereal than sensual.

The stair-stepped buttocks and mouth spread across a wide face topped by two mammoth frontal lobes lets us see Valerie from several angles simultaneously. Like Picasso's cubist sculpture and paintings that were inspired, in part, by the discoveries of quantum physics and Freud's research into the unconscious mind, McIntire's figures appear to be at the edge of some evolutionary leap. His walnut, marble, limestone, and bronze female forms express every kind of yearning and raw energy. At Perry Nicole through November 29th

Across hardscrabble landscapes, in the face of death, in spite of impermanence and pain, Jeri Ledbetter has created a body of work filled with boundless possibility and an unbridled zest for life in her L Ross Gallery exhibition, "Mano a Mano II."

In Tessier's Bend II, weathered branches work their way out of underbrush and cross a sometimes arid, sometimes golden-ochre earth, moving toward a pale-blue patch of sky or pool of water searching for sustenance and light. The incisive blood-red lines in Sugar Ditch IV suggest life's brambles can cut to the quick, and the clarion-red morass of vines and veins in La Palma remind us, like William Faulkner's novels, that life is full of sound and fury.

In one of Ledbetter's most iconic paintings, Cielo II, charcoal washes coalesce into what looks like the death throes of some prehistoric beast. In the wild scribbles of graphite lines that arc and jab across a piercingly blue sky, we feel both the ancient creature's and the artist's rage for life.

Ledbetter is master of the palimpsest as well as the expressive line. We see traces of former worlds covered over with broad, thick swaths of pale-gray paint the artist lays down with gusto. Ledbetter dismisses her inner critics, banishes the fierce demons guarding the temple door, and gives herself permission to experiment, to fail, to start anew, to create works of art that, like life, are complex, uncertain, and achingly beautiful.

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