True Colors 

Seeing red at "The Red Show."

The call: Consider the color red. The response: "The Red Show," now at Perry Nicole Fine Art, for which 41 artists created gritty, bold, iridescent works that are filled with red's passions, both secular and ecumenical, and all the simmering emotions in-between.

Rather than create a static ideal or an etheric soulscape for what is the only totally red painting in the exhibition, Warren Greene paints rivulets and bubbles that appear to break through the very saturate surface of his large oil on canvas, Push. This is a lava-flowing, heart-pumping, bursting-out-all-over evocation of red.

Greene's pulsing canvas backdrops and heightens the sensuality of John McIntire's Night Dancer, a torso shaped out of walnut. Unlike many of McIntire's marble sculptures that flow back into themselves and form self-contained universes, Night Dancer is vulnerable and wide-open to the world. From rib cage to lower shins, a deep trough runs the length of this warm-blooded, earthy red-brown Eve who is thrusting out her right hip and taking a step forward.

Many of the reds of this show (which postscripts a politically, environmentally, and emotionally turbulent year) are scumbled and deeply shadowed. In Sammy Peters' mixed-media canvas Explicit, Manifesting, Evidence, an abstract figure stands on layers of gray-white strata collaged with newsprint. The bottom half of the figure looks like a battered brown suitcase. The top half of the painting is red muddied by green. This combination of grit, eerie atmosphere, and a dirty suitcase (carrying uranium, perhaps, or the few belongings of a displaced person) serves as ironic metaphor for a world where nothing is explicitly evident.

A grotesque, almost unrecognizable face capped with a World War I-era Army helmet floats in a sea of red in Meikle Gardner's large oil on canvas, Battle Worn. Both head and helmet are scratched and scarred. They drip inside, slip beyond the borders of the picture plane, and serve as harrowing reminders of how war scrambles the bodies and brains of its participants.

Faint lines of red create a provocative narrative in Kit Reuther's Domestique (oil on canvas) in which a large silvery moon floats in a dark gray void. At the bottom of the picture plane is a chalky white landscape barren except for pale red outlines of small beds, chairs, lamps, and tables -- traces, perhaps, of creatures who could build things, travel into space, and create the means for their own extermination.

There's much more -- sometimes shimmering, sometimes daring, sometimes wildly inventive -- red. Susan Maakestad's reds range from saturate to dusty to darkly shadowed. They are backdropped by equally complex turquoises and blues. In Parking Lot #2 (oil on canvas), these colors create stunning abstractions that suggest the red chrome of an SUV reflected in oil slicks.

Mary Long's colors appear to glow from within like amber. The reds seethe, the grays smolder, and all her colors seep beyond the edges of their hand-drawn geometries. Lines in a light-gray color field could be the circles of tic tac toe or the hashmarks of a scorecard for a board game. Always a master of encaustic, Long's Unrequited Lesson #2 is also haunting and playful and one of the most satisfying works in her career.

In Arline Jernigan's Abstraction (acrylic and pastel on paper), there are no foregrounds or backgrounds, no suggestions of figures or landscapes, no bold designs, no deeply saturate colors. This is a brave abstraction that could have easily become an amorphous stew of raw umber, raw sienna, burgundies, and cadmium reds. Instead, Jernigan shows us in her search for colors and forms the purpose of the process.

A small red paper square collaged onto the surface of Carol Buchman's mixed-media canvas Eternal Flame contains one of the most inventive drawings in the show. In what looks like mythic metaphor for the creative process, the right leg belonging to an upside-down figure pushes through a cloud. The left foot appears to grasp and shape the cloud, while the head, which has separated from the body, gazes at the scene. By adding a golden flame and Hebrew letters to the figure that sculpts the sky, Buchman transforms a deep-red canvas into a spiritual/mystical/mythical realm where all things are possible.

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