Thoughts from my studio about artwork; new pieces as well as those things that have have remained hidden in my flat file...

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Laurel Hausler at Nevin Kelly Gallery

"The Moors" - Laurel Hausler
Gouache, pen, ink and pencil on paper - 12"x12" - 2008

Laurel Hausler at Nevin Kelly Gallery
"A History of Dogs and Witches - New Works by Laurel Hausler"

The Nevin Kelly Gallery on U Street in Washington, DC has Laurel Hausler's latest works on view through November 9th. Hausler's paintings/mixed media pieces evoke an eerie reaction from the viewer through layering of materials and distorted figures depicting "witches" and animals (not only dogs, but snakes as well).
While all of the artworks definitely seem to be created by the same hand, Hausler's style and format for the pieces varies throughout the show. Some works contain calligraphic texture created by layers of line drawing with a marker or brush, while the most successful pieces present the viewer with haunting figures constructed of ephemeral faces and body parts. The former pieces contain more layers, which one may think would make the seem more finished, but I believe distract the viewer from the layers of expertly executed ghostly forms.
"Faith Healers" - Laurel Hausler
oil on canvas - 48"x48" - 2008

My favorite painting in the show, "Faith Healers" depicts two female forms confronting the viewer, one holding a vial of acidic poison, and another terribly haunting figure holding a snake by the head (a reference to the snake handlers of Appalachia ). This figure is tilting her head, looking down her nose at the viewer, as if conjuring a spell. This face is so hauntingly executed, suggesting otherworldly movement and presence that it would make Francis Bacon jealous. Her right arm is obscured or missing all together in an aqueous swirl of paint. The figures are ambiguous, which adds to the spooky tone of the painting. The understated, but excellent asymmetrical composition pulls the viewer into the color scheme of red, yellow and blue on a shiny black ground. It is simple and wonderful. There are other great pieces in the show (including the small mixed media piece "The Moors" and several lithographs), but this painting is a stand out. Like this painting, the most successful pieces also utilize an asymmetrical composition that increases depth and tension.
The theme of the show is fitting (it is Halloween after all) but escapes the trap of feeling like holiday art. In terms of composition and execution, the show feels a little uneven, but when Hausler hits the mark, its hard to imagine it being done better. I understand this is Hausler's third solo show in different galleries this year, and I look forward to seeing more.

No comments: