Weekly Wire
Weekly Alibi True Colors

By Jeffrey Lee

OCTOBER 26, 1998:  One danger theme shows run is to be over-specific, too many artists huddled around a single idea. Another is to be so free-floating that there's no center at all. The Hunger Artist Gallery's solution, in its current exhibit, is to shy away from high-sounding graduate-school topics in favor of a matter that is always close to hand for people who make art. The new show, going up just as fall gloomily sets in, is all about color.

The somewhat cramped, eccentric space, which opened last spring, is jam-packed with color. But Roberta Gossman and Howard Bobb, the Hunger Artist's owners, have given their artists ample elbow room to explore their theme from remarkably varied angles. Their approaches range from Sarah Myers' Rich Urban View, ash and slate tones that deepen into menacing blue shadows, to Patrick Wing's garish police line-up of lava lamps (Laws Create Crime); from Valdemara Aldag's red-patched Sunlit Fields and intense blue Aurora Borealis to the almost-monotone of Alice Webb's charcoals.

There are 23 artists in the juried exhibition, including nine from Albuquerque, and the general level of work is high. But a couple stand out. Lynne Laier's Red Room with Table takes the show's theme to heart, reducing its subject to bare geometry and pure, exuberant color. Jimmy Pontzer's abstract landscapes, Portrait of a House and C.M., are smart compositions, superbly executed. Pontzer's palette is as sunny as Richard Diebenkorn's, his colors thickly applied in jagged-edged swatches. His care and modesty make both paintings extremely appealing. Two big canvases by James Boulton, City of Yes and City of No, are darker and more complicated. Busy with indecipherable imagery--vaguely defined shapes that seem on the verge of resolving into recognizable objects--they are like allegories whose message stubbornly refuses to give itself away. But that ambiguity (and the forceful hand with which it has been realized) is what makes them moving.

The notion of putting together a show around so basic a theme as color is a refreshing one. It suggests further exhibits along the same lines: imagine "harvests" of form or texture, for example. The Hunger Artist leans heavily in the direction of showing younger and not-yet-established artists--I was surprised to learn that Pontzer and Boulton, accomplished as they are, are both in their early 20s. The overall quality of the work on exhibit is very good indeed, and the clever way Gossman and Bobb have squeezed so much of it into their tight little two-level space does justice to nearly every piece.

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