Culture- ART FEATURE- Uneasy mix: UVA alumni run the gamut

Inspired and repelled– that was my seemingly schizophrenic response to the exhibition, "Alumni in the Arts: Bazzle / Brown-Epstien / Jones," currently on view at the University of Virginia Art Museum. But considering the only common ground shared by the show's trio of artists– Ken Bazzle, Cary Brown-Epstein, and Jim Jones– seems to be their alma mater, maybe my strong reaction wasn't so crazy.

My source of inspiration? Ken Bazzle. A living example of "It's never too late," the 75-year-old started painting only six years ago. The six acrylic and mixed-media abstracts displayed are somewhat hit-and-miss, but the four hits are huge. Using architectural elements to create spatial interest, Bazzle lets his palette range wide as he lays down blocks of color that meld and diverge, giving depth and dimension to the overall compositions.

The untitled work hanging in the center of the gallery's north wall is particularly strong. Here Bazzle's strokes vary between swaths of color and precisely placed lines. As the viewer's eye travels through the painting, small surprises await– an arced element here, a jolt of color there– all contributing to a unified experience. The painting, with its rich areas of orange and ochre, plays especially well against the gallery's teal wall.

Brown-Epstein's pieces, which fuse Polaroid emulsion lifts with watercolor sketches and impressions, also have an inspirational aspect since the artist began this body of work after a close call with death. Although several images seem unresolved, as if she is still working out just where she wants to go with her technique, the sense of joy in the process is palpable. The horizontal pieces "Pull the Night" and "The Cooling Hour" are her most successful. In each, diffusely painted geometric shapes intersect a line of emulsion lifts placed end-to-end above a snippet of poetry. 

The pleasure inherent in Bazzle's and Brown-Epstein's work is countered by the queasiness induced by Jim Jones' sculptures. His fur-covered humanoid forms and his red-mud and straw-covered animals, which appear skinned and tortured, are intentionally uncomfortable. Jones wants to prod reflection on human-animal relationships, but the skewed proportions of his life-sized furry figures also stir a sense of aesthetic dissatisfaction. One apish sculpture placed high on a wall commands attention thanks to its unexpected location. The rest of Jones' pieces, however, succeed a little too well in turning the viewer away.

The exhibition "Alumni in the Arts: Bazzle / Brown-Epstein / Jones" is on view at the UVAArt Museum through June 3. 155 Rugby Road. 924-3592.


1 comment

In this day and age, is there any excuse for an art critique that contains no photos?