The Color of Memory: A Group Exhibition Curated by Jeffrey Thomas

Portland, OR. – Jeffrey Thomas Fine Art is pleased to present THE COLOR OF MEMORY opening on Wednesday, June 29th with a public reception for the artist in the Gallery from 6-8 pm.

What is the color of memory?  Of all our human senses, what visual works of art can actively stimulate us to a sense of wonder, remembrance and revelation? 

We know that different smells can trigger intense and often immediate recollections of time and place in each of us.   The summer scent of new mown grass, pine-sap on your fingers or the aroma our own mother’s cooking are all examples of familiar experiences to us.   And speaking of cooking, taste is another sense that can transport us into our past.   Our sense of touch is another feeling that can trigger immediate and memorable responses in us: neither a kiss nor a fist are easily forgotten.  As for our hearing, play on!

Which brings us to The Color of Memory, this exhibition of twenty different West Coast artists who explore issues of memory and address gain and loss in their work.  Of course, all visual artists explore color, just as they do the basic elements of form, line and light.  Colors have long been associated with tribal identification and the customs of different cultures.   Much has been written about the effects of various colors on our state of mind as representative of emotional expression or repression.

In the exhibition The Color of Memory, curator Jeffrey Thomas has selected each of these artists for their consistent and specific focus on the emphasis or denial of color in their work.  As an engaging visual conversation among these various artists, this exhibition celebrates the power and influence of color in our lives.

Several featured artists in The Color of Memory include: 

SHERRIE WOLF (courtesy of the Laura Russo Gallery) uses both color and the remembrance of things in equal measures in her highly stylized paintings, appropriating and quoting older art historical references in the backgrounds of her work while highlighting sensuous use of saturated color in the sumptuous fruits, flowers and fabrics that litter the foreground of her paintings.                

LAURA FRITZ uses pale shades of mineral color to animate the sculptural tableau of her unsettling “specimens” which seem to be animal, vegetable and mineral all ion one object. For The Color of Memory Laura has created a wall based shelf with reflections (some dark) and a semi-opaque lemon-aide colored specimen.  It really fits the theme because you see the reflections and it makes you question the way you memorized the color of the featured object and its tone.

STEWART JONES has sketched and painted in a surrealistic figurative style for over 40 years.  Now fading into the memory fog of Alzheimer’s, Stewart continues to rework earlier paintings with new cryptic marks of color from an active mind that is slowly drifting away. Stewart has graciously contributed one such poignant work to The Color of Memory.

MARY HENRY (1913-2009) one of the Northwest’s great “matriarchs of modernism”, Mary Henry is beloved and reknown by collectors and museums for her deft use of Prismacolor on paper, giving an exquisite texture and color saturation to her small jewel-like drawings.

GREGORY GRENON (represented by the Laura Russo Gallery) is notorious for combining an almost brutal figurative style with a palette of sumptuous color, resulting in paintings that possess an edgy contrast between the distressed subject and beautiful paint.  This painting Reverie from 1986 is considered one of his masterpieces: in this portrait of a woman drinking a cup of coffee, she definitely has something crossing her mind.

ELLEN GEORGE (courtesy of PDX Contemporary) Ellen George uses color as an evocative trigger for the personal memories of her audience. In Blue, she has threaded a string of translucent ocean blue tones into vertical hanging sculptures that feel like a collection of beach glass,  or as souvenirs from all the oceans of the world. 

JAQ CHARTIER (courtesy of Elizabeth Leach Gallery) approaches color with the keen observations of a scientist making a visual experiment. She calls her primary body of work Testing, because each painting begins as an actual test. Inspired by scientific images like gel electrophoresis, they feature intimate views of materials reacting to each other, to light, and the passage of time. Instead of paint, she uses her own complex formulas of deeply saturated inks, stains and dyes.

DOUG LOWELL is not looking for direct representations or illustrations of stories when he makes his images.  Instead, Doug seeks out photographs of what the poet Jack Spicer called “correspondences”— as if the images in the present world and the figures of imagination are having a conversation.       

BRAD MILDREXLER makes ceramic sculpture that takes no prisoners, you either love it or hate it.  Walking a very thin edge between beautiful and repulsive, Mildrexler’s sculptures all possess a core of vulnerability and poetry despite their often brutal volcanic exteriors. One critic likened his work to a dinosaur taking a dump on your floor.

BRIAN BORRELLO is known for his luminous drawings in dirty motor oil on pristine white marble-dust impregnated panels, bold and very monochromatic.  Recently small edges and flashes of color have appeared, as if life and nature are present and ready to spring forth anew, in the endless cycle of birth and death.

LISA HILDEBRANT was born in 1980. As a child growing up in the desert of Arizona, she was transfixed by the rich natural environment surrounding her home and began creating artwork at a young age. Lisa is a graduate from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts Boston and Tufts University and has been a working artist for the past 16 years. Her influences are the great abstract expressionists, color field painters and her earliest studio mentor Fritz Scholder. 

HARRY FRITZIUS (1932- 1989) was a cult Bay Area painter who took the contemporary art world by storm in the mid-1980s, only to fade quickly and burn out due to alcoholism, culminating with his suicide in 1989.  Along the way he made some of the most impressive, energetic and engaging deconstructions of Old Master painting in muted tones that whispered of the past. 

JON SERL (1898 – 1993) painted characters that were known to be expressionistic and complex, but also brash and bold. It was part of his trademark, which also included the long elegant arms, clownish expressions and large eyes. Because of his vaudeville childhood, his canvases were often compared to theatrical stages. His works explored the inner and the outer worlds with a strange narrative, which usually expressed dualities such as: female against male, good against evil, or nature against technology.

MOLLY VIDOR (represented by PDX Contemporary): “There are moments in nature and in great paintings that are inexplicably beautiful. The way that Bonnard paints a foot can change the way everything else looks. Each of these paintings is inspired by moments like these. They grow from a particular instance into what, I hope, is a broader experience.  I strive for a union in which neither the painter nor the paint overwhelms the other. I have the sense of a canvas fitting around its subject. Sometimes, intimacy and distance, or density and dissolution occur at the same time. Things pass by and can leave an impression that lingers.”

ELLEN WISHNETSKY-MUELLER uses materials that have been recycled either through weather or her own manipulations.   Many of her pieces evoke not only transformation, but also memory.  Despite the disparity and range of materials, she champions a neutral palette. This not only unifies, but also encourages the viewer towards a subtle experience of hue, value, relationship and nuance.  Her work is not narrative, though the pieces may inspire a variety of interpretations and associations.

PAT BARRETT’s paintings evolve from the physical act of mark-making to the formation of visual patches of color and value that hold form. These structures become holders for the ideas and emotions that are influencing the developing of the painting itself, a record of the memory of the making the painting. I look for opportunities that appear during the painting process that will help give structure to whatever it is that is driving the painting.