Culture- ART FEATURE- Retro-vision: Looking back with the Lees

"Can an object or a fact exist out of time and still be up to date?"asks painter David Lee in an essay that accompanied his work in the 1966 Guggenheim exhibition, "Systemic Painting." My response is yes– ancient Aboriginal rock paintings, de-contextualized, look strikingly modern, and the pangs experienced by Radha pining for Krishna in the 12th-century Sanskrit Gita Govinda are achingly familiar to anyone who's been in love.

But in the case of David Lee's own geometric abstract paintings, on view at Les Yeux du Monde in a joint exhibition with his wife, Gloria, the answer is no. What was cutting-edge in the mid-'60s– non-representational painting repeating shapes with minimal color variation– seems kitschily nostalgic now, like something a Hollywood stylist might use as background in an Austin Powers movie.

Lee's three acrylic-on-canvas pieces dating to 1964 feature open-centered rectangle-based shapes laid out in rows of yellow upon yellow. The artist plays with viewers' perceptions of parity by subtly varying sizes and tints, and slices the canvases vertically and horizontally to create unexpected separations. Competently executed, Lee's once boundary-pushing pieces now suffer from a been-there-seen-that familiarity.

A welcome departure is the minimal wall sculpture/painting "Continuum," in which 14 identical off-white panels overlap to create a horizontal progression away from the wall. Think of a bird's eye view of a bleached-out escalator. The shadows of the stepped canvases add visual complexity to the otherwise Zen-like meditation on repetitive form.

Contrasting with her husband's clean-lined geometric approach, Gloria Lee's mostly abstract mixed-media paintings from the mid-1980s are madhouses of frenetic lines outlining lines and neo-pointillistic shapes that call to mind those kids determined to use every crayon in their 64-color box (you know, the big tiered one, with the sharpener on the back). 

Although some of her works become more repellent the closer you look (noting, for example, the queasy placement of sulfur yellow next to dead-salmon pink), Gloria Lee's "Untitled (Double Portraits)" rewards longer study. Its dual panels' mottled surface is reminiscent of polished granite. Out of the brown, turquoise, and ochre color variations on the left, a human profile emerges, while the right's grays and greens reveal traces of a face-forward image. In the center of the work, tile-like squares offer smaller versions of the same two portraits.

Although both Lees' work is less than fresh, the husband-wife "opposites attract" aspect is at least interesting. As Austin Powers might say, "Yeah, baby!"

"Gloria & David Lee" is on view at Les Yeux du Monde through August 25. 115 S. First St. 973-5566.

Culture Art List

Published August 10, 2006 in issue 0532

Through August 13, the McGuffey Art Center presents Jean R. Sampson's exhibition, "Jean's Gutsy Abstract Art Show," as well as its annual summer showcase of members' work. 201 Second St. NW. 295-7973.

Through August 12, Second Street Gallery presents "Love Letter Invitational," featuring collaborative works by 59 area visual artists and writers. Viewers are invited to participate by creating their own pieces in SSG's Dové Gallery, which has been transformed into an artist/writer studio, complete with materials. 115 Second St. SE (in the Charlottesville City Center for the Arts). 977-7284.

Les Yeux du Monde features work by Gloria and David Lee through August 25. 5:30-7:30pm. 115 S. First St. 973-5566. 

The University of Virginia Art Museum presents "John Barber's Sketchbook: The Development of an Artist," through August 23. Also on view through August 20: "Humanism and Enigma: The Art of Honoré Sharrer." 155 Rugby Road. 924-3592.

Through September, the main gallery of the University of Virginia's Mary and David Harrison Institute for American History, Literature and Culture, located in the new Special Collections Library, features "The Style of Power: Building A Nation," examining the art, architecture, and decorative arts popular in post-Revolutionary America. 972-4254. 

The Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection hosts two exhibitions: "Mysterious Beauty: Edward L Ruhe's Vision of Australian Aboriginal Art," and "Manta Wiru (Beautiful Land): Paintings from Amata." Both shows remain on view through August 19. 400 Worrell Drive (Pantops). 244-0234.

The Charlottesville Community Design Center presents "Working to Rebuild Pearlington, Mississippi After Katrina," an exhibit by the Building Goodness Foundation, featuring photography by Will Kerner, Pete Syme, Clayton Cubbit, and numerous Building Goodness Foundation volunteers. On view through August 25. 101 E. Main St. 984-2232.

The Gallery @ 5th & Water presents "Beyond the Barn Door," an exhibition of acrylic paintings by Pat Howe, through August 27. Located in the upstairs foyer of Henderson & Everett and Stoneking/von Storch. 107 5th St. 979-9825.

The Creature Gallery offers wildlife photographer Hal Brindley's latest show, "Alaska," on view through October. 824 Hinton Ave. 284-1800.

Migration: A Gallery features its second summer show, "Inside / Out," featuring paintings by Lynn Boggess and ceramics by local fave Tom Clarkson. Also on view, "Elemental Harmonies," showcasing the work of painter Suzanne Howes-Stevens and metal artist Jim Martin. Both shows run through August 31. Also in August, the gallery hosts the Charlottesville-Albemarle Art Association's 13th Annual Juried Show through August 29. 119 Fifth St. SE. 293-2200.

In August, the C&O Gallery displays Jonathan Doner's "Textures and Transformations." 515 E. Water St. (next to the C&O Restaurant). 971-7044.

The new Convergence gallery features work by aerosol street artists during August. 414 E. Main St. (in the basement under the Twisted Branch Tea Bazaar). 825-8184.

Angelo presents Laura J. Snyder's "Lightness and Weight," an exhibition of paintings and works on paper that explore "a conflict between the physical and the spiritual," on view through August 31. 220 E. Main St. on the Downtown Mall. 971-9256.

During August, HOME showcases new paintings and mixed-media pieces by Andrew Hersey. A portion of all sales benefits the Charlottesville-Albemarle SPCA. 126-D Garrett St. (in the Gleasons Building). 293-2812.

In August, La Galeria presents Roger Lehr's exhibition of oils and acrylics, "Differences." 218 W. Market St. (next to Vinegar Hill Theatre). 293-7003.

C'ville Coffee presents "Whitmans—A Sampling of Media  and Subjects from the Paintings of Judy Carraway" until August 31. 1301 Harris St. (across from Circa). 817-2633.

Mudhouse presents post-Katrina photography by John Shepherd, on view in August. 213 W. Main St. 984-6833.

Order from Horder presents work by photographer Cary Oliva until August 31. 425 E. Main St. 293-9166.

Can't get enough of Laura Lee Gulledge? Then check out "99 Versions of Laura Lee on the Wall," on view at the Starr Hill Gallery during August. 709 Main St. 989-2554.

The 5th Floor Gallery at Keller Williams Realty features an August show of Heliardo Aragao's work along with work by painter Gidey Gezahey. Habitat for Humanity receives 10 percent of all sales. 300 Preston Ave., Suite 500. 220-2201.

Sage Moon Gallery presents "Essence Revealed," an exhibition of work by ceramic sculptor Diann Schindler, on view through August. 420 E. Main St. on the Downtown Mall. 977-9997.

The latest installment in poet Laurance Wieder and artist Andrea Korotksy's "Poem House: Songs in the Landscape" features the painted window, "The Last Century," and the take-it-with-you poem, "My Glasses Flew Off," in the Poem Tube. The installment runs through September 15. Front yard of 2331 Highland Ave. 295-5057.

Through August 31, the Boar's Head Inn Store presents artwork in various media by Mary Boxley Bullington, Gray Dodson, Jeanette Buys, Jack Cacciatore, and Kirk McCauley. Rt. 250W. 977—2241.

The Charlottesville-Albemarle Art Association's new members show, featuring work by Lucia Bakewell, Michael Bednar, Joy Cross, Christine Rich, and Marcy Springett, is currently on view upstairs at the Charlottesville-Albemarle Airport. 295-2486 or 973-9700.

The Central Virginia Watercolor Guild displays new watercolor, pastel, acrylic, and mixed=media work at the Albemarle County Courthouse through October 31. 410 E. High St. 964-1423.

In August, Transient Crafters presents Meg West's latest exhibition of regional landscapes entitled "Summer Views." 118 E. Main St. 972-9500.

White Orchid Restaurant shows "Photographs of Vietnam" by the late Georgia Barbour through August 31. 420 W. Main St. 297-4400.

Glo is currently showing paintings by Christian Peri. 225 E. Main St. on the Downtown Mall. 295-7432.

Blue Ridge Beads & Glass displays new paintings and art glass by Jerry O'Dell. 1724 Allied St. 434-293-2876.

L'étoile Restaurant displays paintings by local artists Barry Gordon, Malcolm Hughes, and Christian Peri. 817 W. Main St. (across from the Amtrak Station). 979-7957.


Through August 19, Richmond's 1708 Gallery features "Overflow: Jill Downen and Charles Gick." 319 W. Broad St. 804-643-1708.

The Staunton Augusta Art Center hosts the exhibition "Moore and Morris," featuring works in crayon by Gil Moore and oil paintings by Cleveland Morris, on view through August 19. 1 Gypsy Hill Park, Staunton. 540-885-2028.

Washington and Lee University's Williams School of Commerce presents "Art Song," an exhibition of etchings, monotypes, relief prints, and lithographs by Judith Kahn. The show runs through September. Lexington. 540-458-8602.

The Artisans Center of Virginia presents ceramicist Dan Finnegan's show, "New Kiln-New Studio-New Work" during August. 601 Shenandoah Village Road. (Exit 94 off I64), Waynesboro. 540-296-3294.

Orange's Corner House Gallery features Virginia landscapes and architecture studies by Linda Bourdreaux Montgomery and Virginia Unakite, along with jewelry by Coryne Simone LaBry. 173 W. Main St. 540-672-5019.

Richmond's Virginia Museum of Fine Arts presents a rotating series of paintings under the umbrella title of "An Enduring Legacy: Paintings Acquired Through the J. Harwood and Louis B. Cochrane Fund for American Art." 200 N. Boulevard. 804-204-2704.

Through October 8, Madison's Sevenoaks Pathwork Center features "Organic Studies," a show of photography by  Ruth Adams. 540-948-6544.

Lovingston's The Eye of the Beholder gallery offers "Stopping Points," featuring paintings, drawings, and photographs by Elizabeth Hutson. Located in the Packing Shed on Front St. 996-5058.

The Barn Swallow features pottery by Janice Arone and Mary Ann Burke, plus other handcrafted artwork. Route 682 off 250W. 434-979-4884.

The Ed Jaffe Gallery features paintings and marble sculptures by Ed Jaffe, plus abstract photographs by Marc Jaffe. 108 W. Main St., Orange. 540-672-2400. 


The Fluvanna Heritage Trail Foundation Art Show invites entries for its annual exhibition on October 6. Works created within the last three years are eligible for entry, and the deadline is September 28. Entry forms are available at Maggie's House in Palmyra, the Fluvanna County Library, the Community Center in Fork Union, and the McGuffey Art Center in Charlottesville. For more info, contact Windy Payne, 434-296-5243, or email

The Scottsville Council of the Arts invites submissions of painting, sculpture, and other media– but not photography– for its "Fine Art Show" during JamesFest, October 13-22. Deadline for application is September 15. For more information or an application visit or 286-4945, 429 Valley St., Scottsville.