Culture- ART FEATURE- Abstract influences: Guyer and Hurt on the horizon

Recently, while discussing a painting exhibition that didn't thrill me, someone dismissed my opinion by saying, "Well, of course, you don't like it— you only like representative work." I burst out laughing because the truth is, although I appreciate well-executed realism (and regularly write about it), I prefer the open-ended, visceral impact of abstraction.

Which is why I'm so excited to discover Peyton Hurt's paintings, currently on view alongside the work of Mike Guyer in the exhibition, "Divisions and Horizons," at The Gallery @ 5th and Water. The two artists are well paired. Both artists evoke memories of mid-20th century abstract painting, with Guyer falling in line with Abstract Expressionism and Hurt drawing on the Color Field movement.

Also, each incorporates horizons, with Guyer's occurring near the top of his compositions and Hurt bisecting her pieces just above center. Embedded in our psychology, such horizons nudge viewers to project "landscape" onto Guyer's and Hurt's work, even though there are no true referents to vistas in either.

Guyers' mixed-media paintings, however, play more fully on viewers' expectations of landscape than Hurt's. He often presents open areas interspersed with marks alluding to large shapes in the lower regions of his paintings, creating the impression of foregrounds that recede into more cluttered, almost chaotic backgrounds near the top of his pieces. Hanging in the gallery's stairway mezzanine, Guyer's "Pylons" is particularly strong with a large field of white interrupted by sooty blacks, rusty browns, and teal vertical elements.

Meanwhile Hurt's oil-on-board images are deceptively minimal, consisting of two distinct color fields divided by a horizontal line. But don't jump to a "been there, seen that Rothko" conclusion, because Hurt infuses her paintings with such complexity that they become almost hypnotic. Using numerous layers, Hurt enables colors to rise to the surface only to disappear again into depths of brushwork and texture. Her paintings seem to accomplish the impossible trick of being both still and dynamic at the same time.

In "Ode to Sisyphus," the lower painting is a wash of oranges, rusts, and browns with occasional glimpses of grey, yielding a sense of industrial decay. Above, Hurt paints a charred area, blackened with hints of gold, brown, and olive green. A subtle yet strong area of verticality rushes through both color blocks, unifying the painting with seemingly organic energy.

Although Guyer's paintings are worthwhile, Hurt's transfix the eye with a rare, raw power.

"Divisions and Horizons: New Paintings by Mike Guyer and Peyton Hurt" is on view through August 31 at The Gallery @ 5th and Water in the foyer of Henderson & Everett and Stoneking/von Storch. Upstairs at 107 5th St. SE. 979-9825