The Franz Bader Gallery is exhibiting two artists who offer a thoroughly contemporary perspective and, at the same time, challenge the prevailing Expressionistic tide of art.
Pim Leefsma is a Dutch artist whose miniature gouaches find their inspiration in medieval manuscript illumination. Assuming the format and stylistic conventions of these early works of art, whose purpose was to illustrate an accepted truth, Leefsma gives an atmosphere of validity to his message -- a mixture of whimsy, wry cynicism and philosophical resignation. These tiny paintings, scarcely larger than 2 1/2 by 3 inches, pack quite a wallop.
In an age when painterly aggression is made manifest both in the size and direct gestural expression of works of art, Leefsma has chosen a different route. These are works no less replete with content -- the usual postmodern contradictions, enigmas and historical references -- but they are measured and restrained.
Within these diminutive arenas, sometimes subdivided still further and emphasized by carefully decorated and delineated borders, Leefsma presents a pageant rich with contemporaneous dialogue. He gazes down upon his world with the keen perception and the loving indulgence of a wise parent. In "The Kite," for example, minute flaming biplanes crash among the pyramids in the lower segment, while, above, an authoritarian figure purposefully flies a cubistic kite. In the background, skyscrapers, one pierced by a bloody arrow, tilt and lean precariously.
If he is reminding us that there are neither new questions nor new answers, Leefsma also shows us a way out of our dilemma. In one work, a figure who might be the artist himself stands in a bleak landscape, which is relieved only by a single tree. He waves a banner of cubistic designs and from his mouth billows a cartoonist's balloon containing only the dictate, "Shilderen," the Dutch word for "paint." Thankfully, Leefsma has taken his own advice.
Peter Jogo is, on the other hand, an unabashed romantic artist with a pantheistic view of the world. Nature, in his works, is overwhelming in its presence.
Man has left tracks in Jogo's world, but they are the marks of benign usage rather than domination: A tiny Volvo creeps across a vast landscape, no more intrusive than a horse and wagon might be; a field of trampled corn stubble seems only a temporary interference in the sweep of a meadow; fog shrouds an empty parking lot and it takes on a sculptural beauty.
Most of Jogo's work is in the form of small oils and etchings, and in both he demonstrates considerable skill. The technique of mezzotint is a demanding one and Jogo complicates it with the addition of viscosity printing, which allows the application of color. In at least one example, "Ravine III," the result is as effective as an oil in its development of depth and subtle variation.
Jogo's world is a pleasant one -- contemporary and yet distant -- where never is heard a discouraging word and the skies, if cloudy, are dramatically so. When the harsher aspects of reality are too much with us, Jogo offers a tempting retreat.
The exhibition of Leefsma's and Jogo's work will continue through Jan. 19. Sculpture by Harold van Houton
Harold van Houton, at Henri Gallery, is of the "elemental forces" school of sculpture. His work stresses the physical properties of his materials as he pits them one against the other -- say, steel against stone.
This small but comprehensive exhibition, which will continue through Jan. 30, includes several good pieces and one major work. In "Limbed Opening," four cast bronze limbs become part of a support structure of cast aluminum. The rigidity of the aluminum provides an effective contrast to the natural unpredictability of the limbs as they reach into and define the enclosed interior space. Where they join at the corners, there is a sensuous, decorative and symbolic meeting of materials in work that tempers modernist principles with post moderinist attitudes.