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Photos courtesy Mark Ormond - Joan Moment’s paintings have a cosmic reference.
Tom Grabowsky is restless in his need to experiment, which is evident in the variety of work he is showing from the past several years.
Allyn Gallup presents paintings of Grabowsky, Moment and Smith

By: Mark Ormond
Allyn Gallup Contemporary Art in Sarasota is currently showing the work of three artists who are each absorbed in their own way with formal issues that begin with the painted surface of an object – be it an unframed wood panel or a stretched canvas. Tom Grabowsky, Joan Moment and Tremain Smith are sharing the space with each other, as well as with the primitive art in the gallery and the work of dozens of other artists from the gallery’s inventory. Since it’s summer, why not spend part of a lazy afternoon with some of this work?

Tom Grabowsky is restless in his need to experiment, and this is evident in the variety of work he is showing from the past several years. There are constants to the work, and they have to do with its foundation.

At first glance, surface, color and compartmentalization equally compete for attention. Among the works here, his palette changes, as does the scale of the work. However, each addresses these three issues.

His surfaces are the most seductive and the most problematic; he seems to use an acrylic varnish that encapsulates the paint and other mixed media, so it is not only physically removed from the viewers’ touch, but visually removed because of how the light bounces off the surface. This shellac shell creates somewhat of a psychological barrier, too, because the paint and forms underneath this are not immediate to viewers. This is what Grabowsky wrestles with in most of the work.

There is a very personal construct to each of the works that viewers can peruse and enjoy – and somehow not get beyond.

In “Light Falling Series 2003,” there is a balance of the geometric and the organic. There is a balanced tension in the structure of the composition; colors and forms co-exist. In “Hinge,” there are two panels of blue and gold. Here, too, he balances the forms and color – the abstract and the reference to nature.

His collages, such as “The Magic Garden II,” seem more contrived and not as much about formal issues. There seem to be endless layers of collaged, digital photographic elements. In “Light Falling IV” and “Light Falling VI,” he has reduced his interests to color, light and dimension. These are successful, and in some ways reference Ad Reinhardt or Mark Rothko in that the light is somewhat mysterious – although we see that it comes from the gold leaf or gold paint on the surface. The stripes add a sense of rigor to the work that brings to mind Gene Davis, although these are very different from his paintings in scale and color and much slicker.

Tremain Smith also concerns herself with surface, as she has challenged herself to work with encaustic or wax mixed with her pigments and collage on panels.

In addition to surface, we are confronted with scale in her work. She nicely balances color and light in her compositions. The paintings are comforting in that they induce a sense of nostalgia in viewers for what is past. There are no specific references, and it is almost the subliminal comfort of a barn door, a porch floor or an old textile.

The only narrative aspect of these paintings is what we invent as the experience of the artist producing the work we are viewing. The surface is visceral in a way that has us thinking about what the surface might be, however, not really knowing. It is as if the past is indistinct, and so our recollection of the colors or textures is suspended. We do not need to touch the work. It is enough that we acknowledge that the materials have witnessed a process that brought them to what we see. It is that comfort we have in looking at what is old and worn. The event has passed. The blood has dried. The skin has shriveled. Experience conceals and hides many things. These works do that.

Joan Moment is showing some new work that has a cosmic reference, as well as some older work that has us contemplating images, impressions and transfers of leaf forms. “Pink Dabs in the Cosmos” layers acrylic paint on a small canvas where we see circles and discs. Colors of blue and orange predominate in this work, as they do in many others in the show.

Moment is working through some new ideas in this series of works where the most recent painting, “Outburst,” seems to be taking her in a new direction of more densely layered surfaces. In “Blue Nasturtium II,” rust and blue blooms float across the paper. She sweeps strokes of paint up and down. “Luminous Net” is a dense aqueous blue, like the night sky or a dark ocean where bubbles or beams of pure white light cluster in the heavens or the surface of the water. “Moment” creates a tension in the juxtaposition of the opaque passages of white and the translucent shades of blue. There are many wonderful passages in which to lose oneself in these paintings.

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