March 20, 2011

In The Arts: 'Journeys' freshens the art landscape


 "Journeys to the Interior" at Addison Woolley Gallery is a rare pleasure. It brings forth the work of a reticent, at least in local terms, intellectual and beautifully accomplished painter.

click image to enlarge

From Robert Nason’s “Journeys to the Interior.”

Courtesy photos

click image to enlarge

David Witbeck’s “Two Gulls.”

Additional Photos Below



WHERE: Addison Woolley Gallery, 132 Washington Ave., Portland. 653-7874

HOURS: Noon to 5 p.m. Thursday to Saturday

CLOSES: Saturday


WHERE: June Fitzpatrick Gallery, 112 High St., Portland. 772-1961

HOURS: Noon to 5 p.m. in March; otherwise by appointment

CLOSES: April 23


WHERE: Gleason Fine Art, 545 Congress St., Portland. 699-5599

HOURS: 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesday to Friday; 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday

CLOSES: Saturday

The artist is Robert Nason, and the show is touched by a sense of discovery. Here, on Washington Avenue, are paintings by a formidable artist, schooled in history, with an oeuvre that transcends synthesis. And he seems to have simply materialized for the event.

For viewers, the show is one of those unexpected rewards that go with the years of viewing. We are an inbred, mutually supportive community of remarkable strength -- but perennially lacking in freshness.

"Journeys" provides the missing quality. Its attitudes are fresh to Maine, but not to art history or indeed to the artist himself. On quick review, the work is grouped into two periods, the '60s and the late '90s.

It would be convenient to say that the early group reflects the School of Paris and the later makes reference to what has taken place in this country more recently, but it doesn't read that way. The latest paintings can embrace erstwhile surreal elements or the fractured dispersions of early Cubism, while both periods reach out to tightly considered forms of geometric abstraction.

My point is that this is beautiful work evoking the pleasures of history, but not a synthesis of it. It is more than a matter of borrowing forms for aesthetic convenience; rather, it's a matter of pursuing a consistently independent vision within the context of great achievements of the past. There is a world of difference between the two. The willingness to intelligently embrace history gives these beautiful paintings an evocative quality that is wholly distinct from their substantive achievements.


I have confessed to a predisposition toward Tom Hall's prints. I know Hall's work; there is a solid consistency to it that I find reassuring and, all in all, it is irresistible to me.

Hall sometimes prints on newsprint or on old grocery bags. The work is generally in black-and-white monotype, and its appearance on such casual materials is touchingly fugitive. There is ephemerality to monotype, and both newsprint and bags are born to expire. It may all disappear one day.

In Hall's exhibit at the June Fitzpatrick Gallery, they have a commonality with the earliest forms of collage -- made of newsprint, cardboard and other disposable stuff, they too lived on the edge of extinction.

This quality, with the impenetrable blackness of Hall's images, sets up a tension that I can almost touch. The images are intent on extracting the life force from the coarse underlying paper which, in turn, hastens their own demise.

The images are generally of dark woodlands, and they can be seen on Saturdays in March and always by appointment at the gallery.


I now suggest that you direct your stalking to "A Conference of Birds II" at Gleason Fine Art. The exhibit is gathered from among gallery residents and a few irregular migrants. There are 16 attendees in all; all conform to the gallery's adherence to highly accomplished, representational work.

There are some beautiful images and strong sculpture in this show. I'll start with a note about the sculpture. Representational sculpture hasn't gotten much attention for decades. Sometimes demoted to be garden pieces, they lose their finesse among the flowers and their status among the arts.

Even pieces intended for indoor presentation are often sited for their decorative value and lose out to more easily approached paintings. This is a pity, because there are carvers among us who produce wonderfully intense work, and workers in wrought iron that so dematerialize mass that it acquires the vitality characteristic of drawing.

(Continued on page 2)

Were you interviewed for this story? If so, please fill out our accuracy form

Send question/comment to the editors

Additional Photos

click image to enlarge

Genetta McLean’s “Mantegna’s Screen.”

click image to enlarge

Tom Hall’s “Casco Bay Bridge 2,” woodcut with mixed media, at June Fitzpatrick Gallery.

click image to enlarge

From Robert Nason’s “Journeys to the Interior.”

click image to enlarge

From Robert Nason’s “Journeys to the Interior.”

click image to enlarge

Scott Kelley’s “Common Eider.”


Further Discussion

Here at we value our readers and are committed to growing our community by encouraging you to add to the discussion. To ensure conscientious dialogue we have implemented a strict no-bullying policy. To participate, you must follow our Terms of Use.

Questions about the article? Add them below and we’ll try to answer them or do a follow-up post as soon as we can. Technical problems? Email them to us with an exact description of the problem. Make sure to include:
  • Type of computer or mobile device your are using
  • Exact operating system and browser you are viewing the site on (TIP: You can easily determine your operating system here.)



More PPH Blogs