Craven has ceramics, paintings; three different shows at Arts Council

Jul. 31, 2014 @ 12:14 PM

This week Craven Allen is showing ceramics and paintings and at the Durham Arts Council are three very different painting shows. Craven Allen’s exhibition space is beautifully arranged with Brad Tucker’s pottery seemingly floating on their glass shelves against the bright greens and yellows of Linwood Hart’s paintings.

Both artists, in their own way, are connecting to the traditions of the land of North Carolina. Tucker has been a potter for 28 years or so, and he revels in the simple shapes, colors and textures so famous in North Carolina. Hart uses a mixed media format embedding items into the canvas, which sometimes he shows and other times hides beneath his surfaces. He writes that this most recent work is connected to his North Carolina farm, “to the hot, humid green and yellow hues of a tobacco field; the cool, wet concrete floors of a dairy barn.” Tucker uses a complex layering of glazes and slips; Hart covers his surfaces with layers of paint and found objects. Hart’s work is traditional and familiar; Tucker’s is otherworldly, spectral, just under the clouds.
Educated in North Carolina, both formally and as an apprentice to Sid and Pat Oakley, Tucker is the owner of Brad Tucker Pottery in Creedmoor. He produces sturdy pots which are comfortable in the living room as objets d’art or in the kitchen as items for cooking or serving. There are pitchers, tea pots, large and tall vases, small plates, sturdy bowls and covered casserole dishes. They are as beautiful as they are utilitarian and range in hues from olive greens to browns to deep reds with floral patterns drawn directly on the glazed surface.
Hart has moved in and out of the state and, although he is deeply rooted to North Carolina, has spent many months living in other places. He writes that he understands home may not be a place but a state of being that for better or worse changes over time. “Man Behind the Curtain” probably visualizes this idea of displacement. The canvas is divided into three vertical segments of varying widths; between the outside ones of blue-greens, a painted eye peers out. In “Meditative Drip” there is a huge building, an apartment complex perhaps, with windows made of Chinese characters. In the foreground of the painting is a huge drip of white paint which has formed into a bird with wings spread across the surface.
Hart writes the instruments of his technique vary from fingers to brushes, razors, scrap paper, plastic bags … whatever it takes.  He tells us the work evolves over time, sometimes years.  His paintings require and deserve our time to consider.
The Durham Arts Council manages the city-owned building at 120 Morris Street in downtown Durham, which is open seven days a week and is home to the Durham Art Guild and its major exhibition space. The council also creates the funding to initiate arts festivals and award arts scholarships; lessons in the arts are also available plus studio and performing art spaces. And if that is not enough, the managers have designated every available corner as exhibition space and three new shows have just opened. 
In the downstairs Allenton gallery Jessica Summers paints about domesticity. On one side of the space she uses oils to expresses her inability to match her mother’s expertise as a homemaker and on the other side, in pencil, she confesses her anxiety about her relationship with her husband because of a demanding schedule.
The richly painted oils include one very large one where the mother is bending over a counter and stove full of food; several small paintings of corners in a very carefully organized home; and one other where a woman, dressed in cocktail clothes, presents a casserole to the viewers.  Across from these are three large black and white drawings of a man and a woman: in one, they face each other at a table, she is playing cards and he is eating; in another, they are seated at the bathroom mirror and she cuts his hair; and, in the third, she is on the floor playing with a doll house while he sits across the room eating out of a Styrofoam carry out box, watching the unseen TV.  They live under one roof, she loves him, but they do not communicate. This is real. Can it be fixed?
Upstairs in the Ella Fountain Pratt Legacy Gallery is Debra Wuliger’s portraits of people sitting in coffee shops. She uses the cubist vocabulary of cylinders, spheres, cubes and cones to realize her figures yet never loses the traditional human form. Among the images are women alone and in pairs; two others show us a man and woman together and a woman with a small child.  Wuliger uses a similar palette in all, delicate greens, yellows, mauves. Unlike Summers, her canvases have no narrative except in the broadest sense; they are about the human shape in an enclosed space. They are simply about the art of painting. It there is a story it is up to the spectator to supply it. Wuliger received the Pratt Emerging Artist grant in 2012-2013, which included a solo show in this space.
Lindsey Dunnagan’s “Mapping the Intangible” in the Semans Gallery is a series of large canvases with diaphanous stains of watercolor mixed with salts which spread over small precise architectural drawings. When the salt crystals dry they crackle and peel.  The changes in the picture relate to the transience of time, the loss of people and the shifting perceptions of the artist, and by extension, the spectator. The maps are quite beautiful; they deserve close attention.


“Suddenly and with Joy:  Linwood Hart:  Painting and Brad Tucker: Pottery,” Craven Allen
Gallery, through Sept. 6.
Durham Arts Council:
“Jessica Summers:  Domesticity,” Allenton Gallery, through Sept. 7.
“Debra Wuliger:  Coffee Talk,” Ella Fountain Pratt Legacy Gallery, through Dec. 27.
“Lindsey Dunnagan:  Mapping the Intangible,” Semans Gallery, through Sept. 7