You want ravishing, I’ll give you ravishing. Metaphor Contemporary Art, nestled among the antique shops dotting Atlantic Avenue in downtown Brooklyn, is exhibiting a stunning group of abstract paintings by Julie Evans. Ms. Evans juxtaposes delicately rendered ornamental motifs—a mandala-like circle is the linchpin of her pictorial vocabulary—against grainy runs of paint, setting in motion compositions that undulate, mutate and crystallize right before our eyes. The pictures evince her continuing fascination with the art of non-Western cultures, particularly that of India.
Space in Ms. Evans’ paintings is deep and fluid, awash with light and suffused with portent. Bobbing within it are dottings and ribbons of pattern, at times submerged by a golden haze, at other times coalescing into tangible structures. Hazy yellows, velvety greens and crystalline alizarins distinguish the palette, making the surfaces surprisingly rich. We don’t tend to think of gouache, an opaque watercolor, as a luxuriant medium—it’s too dry and matte, too taciturn a paint, to actively seduce the eye. Ms. Evans proves otherwise, beguiling the viewer with sumptuous textures and tones.
She hits her stride when working on panels measuring not much more than a foot in either direction. Ms. Evans’ previous efforts were larger and discursive—willful, too. A small format strengthens, as well as makes resilient, her painterly imagination. Bringing an entire cosmos to fruition within a framework that could be tucked into a handbag, Ms. Evans creates vistas infinitely more expansive than the physical parameters of the painting’s support. Clearly the conventions of Indian miniature painting have become second nature to her. No wonder the work has gained in surety, density and scope.
Julie Evans: Swish of the Yak Tail Fly-Whisk is at Metaphor Contemporary Art, 382 Atlantic Avenue (open Thursday through Sunday), until Oct. 10.
Every time I write about the sculptures of Bruce Brosnan, I grumble that they’re not sculptural enough. Admitting to the third dimension is difficult for Mr. Brosnan. His kid-friendly brand of biomorphic abstraction, constructed from flat panels of wood, depends a lot on pictorial definition. Shape, color and space occur within the pieces as painted form. I’ve sometimes wondered if Mr. Brosnan is a sculptor at all.
After visiting Feature Inc., which is exhibiting the artist’s recent work, I’m convinced that Mr. Brosnan is, in fact, a sculptor—an opinion predicated on two recent drawings, puzzle-like agglomerations of organic shape. They’re dreadful: No one with a lick of pictorial know-how would want to claim student-grade pastiches of Cubism and Peter Max as their own. That Mr. Brosnan has leads me to believe, at the very least, that he’s not a painter.
Not a ringing affirmation of Mr. Brosnan’s sculptural facility, I know. If he exhibits painterly flair only when working on irregular pieces of wood, the forays into sculptural form continue to wobble. Watch Mr. Brosnan place a goofy cut-out form on top of an equally goofy wooden support—you can’t help but register his irresolution about how far it should pop out, or what it should be popping against. These good questions are fudged rather than answered. It might help if Mr. Brosnan familiarized himself with Gertrude Greene, an unheralded American modernist who made a distinctive contribution to the medium of painted wood relief. Once he gets that far, we’ll talk about overcoming a congenital case of the cutes. In the meantime, Mr. Brosnan soldiers on, amiably and to diverting effect.
Bruce Brosnan: Sculpture is at Feature Inc., 530 West 25th Street, until Oct. 9.
“Fuckin’ rad, man!” That’s the sentiment I overheard from an enthusiastic patron of LFL Gallery in response to Nothing’sCutie (2004),a sprawling, site-specific installation by Phoebe Washburn. The primary media of Ms. Washburn’s mixed-media extravaganzais wood—or, to be precise,innumerable lengths of wood painted NeccoWafer bright. Connected with drywall screws,they form a huge and rickety architectural tsunami; you have to walk under the thing to get inside the gallery. Propped up by a folding table, two-by-fours and some five-gallon buckets, Nothing’s Cutie is populated by a lot of pencils, a lot of pencil boxes, a lot of rolls of four-inch-wide tape and an ocean of sawdust. Imagine the New York City diorama at the Queens Museum as built by a precocious child who’s been locked inside the woodshed long enough to go a little batty. What makes this floor-to-ceiling tribute joyous excess work is its naturalism: Nothing’s Cutie ebbs and flows with a compelling, unforced ease. The aforementioned gallery-goer was off in his critical assessment: Ms. Washburn’s achievement isn’t radical, it’s ridiculous—that’s why it’s good.
Phoebe Washburn is at the LFL Gallery, 530 West 24th Street, until Oct. 2.