"Navigation Paintings," curated by Marcel McVay at Yellow Peril Gallery (60 Valley St, Providence, through March 17), features the work of Michael Childress of Amherst, Massachusetts. These canvases are part-abstraction, part-stylized realism, part-vectors and diagrams, part-David Hockney, and part-metaphysical third-eye visions.

Some just feel hokey — like Dark Phenomena, which looks like a Monet water lily painting that was spun in a blender. But things snap into place in Plane Ascension, a DayGlo camouflage pattern of orange, green, and yellow. Atop floats a geometric design of white lines seeming to diagram an office building or modernist stairwell, but the design keeps turning inside out like an optical illusion and dispersing into just lines.

Peak of the Mystic Mountain is a sketchy, sort of lunkhead "expressionist" painting of a starburst or an exploding volcano rendered with Xs and squiggles hovering over red mountains. Rose Window looks like a game board combined with the pyramid from Q*bert combined with some sort of mystical mandala radiating beams of energy.

I'm not totally sold on these paintings, but I'm interested in what (I think) Childress is trying to do. It feels like he begins with serious questions— wondering about nature, wondering about the forces that orient the universe — and then begins to play.

Read Greg Cook's blog at  gregcookland.com/journal.

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