Culture- ART FEATURE- Inner view: Vorlet gets personal

In order to put food on the table and kibble in the dog bowl, many creative types– from architects to freelance writers– spend much of their time churning out work for hire. But what do they make when no one's watching, when personal satisfaction rather than the prospect of a paycheck is the priority?

This month Les Yeux du Monde provides a glimpse into the creative soul of illustrator Christophe Vorlet. Known for his succinct and effective pictorial commentaries, published everywhere from The Atlantic to The Wall Street Journal, Vorlet fills both the upper and lower galleries with paintings and drawings produced between jobs over the past 18 years. 

The contrast with his illustrations is striking. Whereas his paid work often requires Vorlet to work in black and white or with a limited palette, his paintings reveal a fascination with the interplay of colors. In fact, Vorlet has elected to group his pieces according to palette choices rather than to arrange them chronologically.

A salient feature of the show is Swiss-born Vorlet's predilection for compositional styles popularized by avant-garde European artists during the first half of the 20th century. His playful use of line and color, geometric division of space, and abstract representations carry echoes of Paul Klee, Fernand Leger, Pablo Picasso, and Joan Miro, among others.

Rather than striving to convey messages about public issues, such as immigration or global warming, as he does in his illustrations, here Vorlet uses abstraction to explore the most intimate aspects of life: family, friendships, and the relationship between a man and a woman. In "Sleepless Summernight," a large oil painting with a Picasso-meets-Botero flavor, a flesh-colored labyrinthine knot writhes atop rumpled sheets. Although the work lacks identifiable figures, its deliberate eroticism may cause some viewers to blush.

One of the most charming series in the show is a set of small gouache works dating to 1990, when Vorlet was experiencing firsthand the delightful terror a newborn brings. Vibrating with energy, each picture depicts an abstract baby, tiny fists sometimes cle2nched, sitting front and center amid toys chaotically scattered across a floor stretching into the background.

A few of Vorlet's images veer toward straightforward illustration, like the arresting "Urban Development" and the Magritte-influenced "Could but Can't," but the majority of his personal paintings and drawings express an appreciation for life's nuances that simply can't be captured in black and white.

"Christophe Vorlet: Paintings and Drawings" is on view at Les Yeux du Monde through February 26. 115 South St. 973-5566.