Live wires: Chroma wakes up its walls

Nina Ozbey, "As I See It."
Nina Ozbey, "As I See It."

Sloth. Indolence. Inertia. Pick any related word, and chances are it's what you've battled during the relentless mugginess dogging this summer's dog days. But you can remove the toothpicks you've been using to prop open your eyelids, thanks to Chroma Projects' current exhibition, "Energeia."

Showcasing work by Susan Crowder, Nina Ozbey, and Carrie Miller Payne, "Energeia is an homage to Aristotle's theories on the inherent activity and effort in energy," according to its press release. But viewers don't need to know an iota of Greek philosophy to understand what motivates these artists is an interest in how color and the quality of brushstrokes and other marks combine to create combustible force.

Susan Crowder, best known as a large-scale sculptor, presents a series of abstract drawings and collages, as well as two three-dimensional works. A natural outgrowth of her 2009 Angelo show, "Florid Hybrids," Crowder uses a tropical palette of lime green and black to continue to explore the intersection of organic and inorganic matter in her drawings and small compositions. Her work is strongest when she introduces three-dimensional elements. For example, "Nature Study 020" features fluffy black spheres centered in the squares of an undulating black grid, which appears to float on a chartreuse background.

Crowder cools off her palette for her sculptures, "Hot Springs" and "Crabtree Falls," which feature long, spiraling tendrils of grey, black, and blue wires. "Crabtree Falls," which descends from an overhead grid suspended in the gallery's front window, is especially entertaining since one of its coils snakes out Chroma's door toward the Downtown Mall.

Also hanging in the front window are three of Nina Ozbey's oil-on-canvas abstracts. Characterized by a rush of brushstrokes extending in all directions, Ozbey's paintings are an exuberant chaos of color. Ozbey clearly takes a stream-of-consciousness approach to composition, one stroke leading to the next, this color leading to that, without any forethought or intended destination. Often interesting is what happens in the spaces between her strokes and how small drips diffuse across the canvas, as, for example, in "Something New."

Carrie Miller Payne also varies the weight and opacity of marks in her semi-abstract acrylic works that often incorporate faces. She generates raw energy with scribbled lines and blotchy paint, but Payne, maintains control of her red-fueled compositions, which spill onto the sides of blocked canvasses.

Overall, "Energeia," is hit-and-miss, but its three artists are refreshingly eye-opening.

"Energeia," featuring work by Susan Crowder, Nina Ozbey, and Carrie Miller Payne, is on view through August 28 at Chroma Projects Art Laboratory, 418 E. Main St. on the Downtown Mall. 202-0269