Easel Does It 

With two new exhibits, Page Bond helps to keep painting alive.

click to enlarge Subtle order: Peri Schwartz's abstract oils (such as "Bottles and Jars XXII," above) and B. Millner's moving realist works (such as "White Door," below) compliment each other in a new dual exhibit at Page Bond Gallery.
  • Subtle order: Peri Schwartz's abstract oils (such as "Bottles and Jars XXII," above) and B. Millner's moving realist works (such as "White Door," below) compliment each other in a new dual exhibit at Page Bond Gallery.

Contemporary art sometimes veers away from the iconic medium of painting, but Page Bond Gallery remains dedicated to the form, striving to highlight its longstanding relevance.

For its March show, the gallery will present exhibitions of two painters, Peri Schwartz's "Compositions" and B. Millner's "Abandoned." Though different in style and content, viewed together these paintings illustrate a glimpse of the space somewhere between realism and abstraction that reveals more about both.

Bond intended such juxtaposition. "There are similarities too," she says. "Even though Peri's work is abstract, her pictures are not loose. Her use of the grid sets up a very strong, almost architectural order. B. Millner's landscapes are in some ways more fluid. There is order, but with a subtler touch."

Millner came relatively late to painting, having taken up the brush after a career in business. He works on canvas and in three-dimensions with sculpture. Millner's latest paintings express a high realism in open space, devoid of human presence, but typically with something man-made in the scene. In his "Abandoned" series, the details and colors are alternately sumptuous and nostalgic, while the use of diffuse light gives the scenes a slightly removed quality, like a memory. A subtle tension stays between the linear compositions and their organic details. And all these elements work together to somehow create more than a visual scene — a feeling, a nuance of human experience. This capability might be the force behind realism's endurance as a beloved form of visual expression.

click to enlarge arts_culture3-2.jpg

In contrast, Schwartz disrupts that tension between line and organic form to create an abstract image. She uses the traditional, old-master grid system to organize her compositions, which is crystal clear in the image. But the play of light in those spaces becomes the obvious drive, similar to what happens in Millner's work.

Schwartz is a career artist of more than 30 years, working with drawing and printmaking as well as paint. Across genres, her work expresses a strong discipline bordering on compulsion. And it works. In the Bottles & Jars series of paintings, the same subject is revisited with varying magnitudes of color, line and space. The focus changes in her prints and drawings of the same subject. "By eliminating color I can focus on the composition and light," she says. "When I return to painting after drawing, color becomes the subject."

Side-by-side these paintings indicate a small overlap, an interstice of sorts, between what is termed realism and abstraction. Viewed together, their work creates a tangible sense of the process of making either a realistic or an abstract image — both are real, and both are essentially creations of light, shape and color. S

Peri Schwartz's "Compositions" and B. Millner's "Abandoned" are on view at Page Bond Gallery, 1625 W. Main St., until March 31. For information visit pagebondgallery.com or call 359-3633.

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