'CAHOOSIC' By Anne Neely, oil on linen, 36 by 44 inches, 2011.
A two-person show can be very tricky, raising the possibility of both bodies of work vying for attention, edging each other on, or inviting negative comparisons. In a successful pairing, both artists' work gains from the association, enriching each other and suggesting readings not sustainable on their own. The current combination of painter Anne Neely and sculptor Tom Chapin in the exhibition series "Counterpoint" at the Center for Maine Contemporary Art is one of those successful ones that chimes beautifully.
Neely and Chapin share a formal vocabulary of energetic lines and globular components, as well as an organic sensibility that derives from their inspiration in nature. Neely's paintings are visually elegant landscapes built up from a multitude of marks, lines, drips, and modulated fields of color that read like accumulated strata of time, memory, and observation. There is a wonderful interplay between the autonomy of paint and its cumulative suggestiveness. At what point do we read these abstractions as landscapes? Many paintings appear to radiate light from within. Horizons of lively color create space for mood and atmosphere ranging from ominous and brooding to light and playful, turning the paintings into landscapes of the heart and mind.
'7TH SEVEN' By Tom Chapin, 38-inch diameter, in burnished wood, 2012.
Chapin's gray sculptures of burnished wood look deceptively like metal. Biomorphic in character, each piece contains elongated slender stretches and becomes more substantial, blob-like, at ends and bends. The resulting dynamic is powerful, as if a current of energy were running through them, or liquid graphite was oozing, trying to escape from itself.
The sculptures are delicately perched atop the pedestals, almost defying gravity and strengthening the sense of movement. These are exquisitely conceived and executed pieces in which physical presence and associative suggestion are perfectly aligned. Both artists' work suggests fluidity and communicates a quiet energy. Creating and inhabiting space, Neely's beautiful color harmonies and Chapin's sculptural gray enhance each other.
Upstairs at CMCA, two small solos offer glimpses of the work of two very sophisticated artists. Camden native Samantha Appleton is a successful photojournalist who imbues her images with beauty and humanity, whether she covers the conflict in Iraq or President Obama in her recent position as official White House photographer. She often focuses on the story in the sidelines, not the main event, like the medical officer hiding from the press. She brings her eye to quiet, yet spectacular moments for the Obama family, almost convincing us they could be anybody if not for the formal backdrops or illustrious guests. Some of Appleton's images are installed to make deliberate comparisons between subjects whose political validity may be questionable but which ring true on a human level.
The Phoenix's own Ken Greenleaf is represented with works on paper from two series, both small in scale but eloquent in their restraint. The charcoal drawings in the "Blackwork" series continue Greenleaf's familiar geometric and linear investigations, but they also negotiate new terrain by incorporating collaged pieces of paper. Highlighting process, these physical additions may appear distracting at first but they also introduce the possibility of illusionistic recession into space, working against the flatness of the drawings, and give rise to a complex, engaging tension.