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Mind over Matter

Artists take different positions on reality at 1708 and ADA.



Wilson's more sophisticated and finished ink drawings of fantasy flying machines, which also hang here, suggest that he is no amateur, but maybe one who simply spends more time disengaged from the concrete than most. "The Floating World," Wilson's title for his portion of the exhibition, seems to be selling escapism as a valid pursuit with no apologies. In Wilson's world, he boards a ship that never anchors. Through his doodles, not his framed ink drawings, he invites free association, jogs memory and allows side trips.

It's with this abandon from reason that Wilson sets up a worthwhile dialogue not only with Richmond painter Sara Clark, with whom he shares 1708 exhibition space, but also with three artists a few doors down and across the street at ADA Gallery.

In contrast to Wilson's serendipitous attitude, Sara Clark's painting series, called "After Math," is deliberate and rational in conception if not in final form. Creating enigmatic illusions of shapes based on mathematics, Clark seems to be following in the footsteps of mid-20th-century Concrete Artists who believed that abstract thoughts could be represented in sensuous form (unlike abstractionists who don't want to represent anything). Some of Clark's earth-toned images of twisted ellipses and unusual geometries clearly suggest the mathematic structure she claims to be influenced by, while other images appear to be based on biology and other forms of science.

Technically, Clark comes up with some compelling and complicated paintings, but what weighs against it is a case of dryness. Her imagery suggests levity (her figures always float in front of atmospheric backgrounds), but her handling of color and shadow forces a disappointing heaviness. One longs for more signs of the playfulness she displays in "Spheres of Influence," a series of a dozen 12-inch tondos she hangs in a circular group like a constellation. Each painting plays on geometries of spheres, convincingly represented with a smooth and almost tangible roundness.

At ADA there is no lack of vitality in highly saturated paintings by Richmonder Martin Bromirski, obsessively carved wood sculpture of New Yorker Michael Ferris Jr. and delicately crafted egg tempura paintings by Susan Jamison of Roanoke. As if on the same boat as Wilson, these three favor intuition over science, and here it takes form as spiritual responses to humanity and nature.

While Bromirski and Ferris both prove their passion for media and subject matter, it is Jamison's exotically embellished nude females interacting with hummingbirds, snakes and frogs that jolt ADA with a fresh take on ideal beauty. Eastern in feel, Jamison's tranquil figures balance their inner selves (as represented by the forest of veins and arteries seen through translucent skin) with the outer world in simple, stylized poses set against pure white backgrounds. The artist's approach to her painting appears as focused and harmonic as the poses she represents. As 1708 contrasts Wilson with Clark, ADA nicely sets Jamison's restraint against Bromirski's and Ferris's exuberant use of materials. S

Paintings by August Moon Wilson and Sara Clark at 1708 Gallery, 319 W. Broad St., and "Reconfigure," work by Susan Jamison, Martin Bromirski and Michael Ferris Jr., at ADA Gallery, 228 W. Broad St., all run through April 30.

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