For me, summer equals Jack Kerouac's novel, "On the Road." Specifically, I think of the beginning of each journey when the seasons are changing, before the despondent narrator becomes weighed down by the messiness of humanity. Before Allen Ginsberg's epic poem "Howl" becomes the reality. Kerouac captures a heat-related energy and thrill of expectancy within the narrative — especially when Sal Paradise's buddy Dean shows up, buzzing with a visceral and infectious vitality.
Page Bond Gallery's summer shows — a group exhibition, "Shade," and Kathleen Markowitz's solo show, "Breath of Light Things" — remind me of this optimistic, ready-for-the-next-adventure Kerouac. I visit the gallery on yet another summer-weather-advisory day, with the heat index in the 100s. But I feel like I've entered that idealized, airy version of summer we all love before it gives way to muggy, humidity-filled days.
The front space displays one brightly colored, two-dimensional object after the next. As a group show featuring artists represented by the gallery, "Shade" holds together in a liberal amalgamation, meant to be, as owner Page Bond puts it, "laid-back and summery." Subject matter and color provide loosely unifying structures; abstract works in the front with more representational material in the back.
Saturated oranges, yellows, pinks and whites are the preferred palette for much of the work along the right side, while cooler blues, greens and silver tones dot the work along the left wall. As you embark down the back hallway, the work becomes smaller, more representational and less categorically cohesive. Markowitz's show fills up the West Gallery.
At the front, Sarah Irvin's "Float" (2012), with its streaks of warm colors and negative white circles, is both visually fun and intellectually serious. Tied explicitly to perception and reality, each mark is made from memory; the artist acknowledges that these memories are factually inaccurate and edited. She uses built-up, thin layers of paint to underscore this notion of ethereal memories. Directly across the large, open gallery hangs Stephanie Weber's "Elemental L." Irvin's circles, negatives spaces and bright colors contrast sharply with Weber's cool palette, metallic surface and thick bands of assertive color. An acrylic and oil on aluminum, the painting literally glows and shimmers while you walk past.
Farther down the hallway hangs Fiona Ross' "Dredged and Sifted #23," an intimate but visually startling two-dimensional painting. For Ross, imitating natural processes is integral. Hydration and dehydration is used to create the luminescent layers of translucent colors, which pool together and become suspended into basic shapes. The result is aesthetically stunning and detailed in a way that mimics Indian miniature paintings.
Markowitz's solo show, "Breath of Light Things," also features small works on paper. With a poem as her statement, Markowitz implies throughout the exhibition that carefully chosen words act in tandem with the visual products. For example, "Airborne" a mixed media piece that uses collage, has the words "üt and cobalt sky" pasted against the deep cobalt blue background. And lyrically suggestive titles accompany other works, such as "Homage to a Mumble," "Cricket Sounds" and "The Caged Skylark for Gerard Manley Hopkins." For Markowitz, words transport and supply a deeper level of meaning.
Galleries typically slow down during the summer months. People gravitate to the outdoors. But Page Bond Gallery's summer show is worth a visit before it ends Aug. 30. Its relaxed vitality offers a pleasant and energetic take on summer as a packaged event, combining the best parts of the season with optimism.
Cooler air and changing leaves will usher in the serious gallery season soon. Each new cycle brings the hope of fresh, untempered starts, as we take Kerouac's prescription and "lean forward to the next crazy venture beneath the skies." S
"Breath of Light Things: Kathleen Markowitz" and "Shade: a Summer Group exhibition" runs through Aug. 30 at the Page Bond Gallery, 1625 W. Main St.