Abstract outlooks: Kawecki shape shifts at Mudhouse

Cass Kawecki, "Outlook."
Cass Kawecki, "Outlook."

Repeat after me: "Sorry." "Excuse me." "Am I in your way?" "Pardon." Say the words over and over until they roll off your tongue without distraction because you'll need them if you view Cass Kawecki's exhibition, "Experiment in Process," at Mudhouse.

The most frustrating venue in Charlottesville, Mudhouse's gallery wall runs alongside the corridor to the counter (and beyond to the bathrooms). It may offer artists exposure to many eyes, but it is not conducive to long looks. Which is a shame because Kawecki's 10 oil paintings and 16 smaller works–- mostly watercolor-pastel combinations–- deserve more than a passing glance.

The oils hang in the front of the caf© and include several abstract cityscapes, along with a few minimal seascapes. The urban works are particularly successful, painted in grays and blues, and filled with architectural angles and geometric shapes. Kawecki plays with how much he can obscure his original sources without losing them altogether, creating chalky layers of color, and building up and scratching through surfaces.

"Raki," for example, seems simultaneously a geometric abstract and a vista overlooking the roof of a multi-windowed city building. Kawecki's subtle introduction of pink in the upper left and across the top right, complemented by a few powdery areas of buff below, enriches the work. The longer one looks, the more depth and detail one discovers. (Practice; "Am I in your way?")

Kawecki's experimental approach to landscape continues in 12 watercolors hung in a double row at the back of the coffeehouse. Here, he plays with color relationships and ways of demarcating the horizon. In "Horizon #5," an ochre sky fills the upper half of the frame above a gray expanse of ground. Kawecki overlays this simple landscape with unevenly spaced horizontal and vertical graphite lines, with a single diagonal slicing from the upper right to the center of the bottom. Below this image, "Horizon #1" offers a similar composition, but with the colors of the sky and land reversed and without the imposition of lines.

In his compelling "Black Mountain" series, Kawecki further pares away the information necessary to suggest landscapes, yielding what are essentially rectangles of black. "Black Mountain #1" is especially riveting with its flame-like streak of orange bolting across the horizon. Gorgeous in their minimalism, the four images reward lingering, but, unfortunately, hang right outside Mudhouse's lavatories.

Alas, viewing Kawecki at Mudhouse means always having to say you're sorry.

Cass Kawecki's exhibition, "Experiments in Process,"is on view through May 31 at Mudhouse. 213 W. Main St. on the Downtown Mall. 984-6833.

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