Both are abstract painters, but that’s where the similarities between Mark Emerson and Tom Leaver end.
Emerson’s colorful geometric abstractions play with the rhythm of shapes and hues in a musical way. Leaver’s atmospheric abstracted landscapes are amorphous, dreamlike emanations of the subconscious.
Yet their joint show at JayJay does justice to both artists, whose works are hung in separate groupings. Had they been interspersed, the works would have been a confusing mess. But the gallery has arranged things so that you can concentrate on one vision at a time.
When you walk in the front door, Emerson’s work on the opposite wall grabs you and pulls you in. “Note by Note,” a canvas of horizontal bars in bright colors, receding and projecting, is almost three-dimensional. Emerson acknowledges the influence of Hans Hoffman’s “push and pull” aesthetic in this and others of his works.
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Here, the use of close color values creates optical effects that leave the eye buzzing with energy. A brown bar over a gray-blue one over a pink one, all offset, create a 3-D effect at a distance. Up close, the picture plane flattens, and you notice Emerson’s use of alternating passages of flat and textured colors. The textures add warmth to what could have been a cold vision.
Though it includes shards of blue, green, red and pink, “Running Away” comes off as a yellow painting, the varying shades of yellow setting up a sunny glow that lightens the room. The interlocking diamond and square shapes set the eye bouncing and skipping over the surface.
“Orange for Kathy” is a warm, radiant rhapsody of orange tones, interspersed with touches of varying colors in a composition of triangles and squares that emits a tropical heat. You actually want to bathe in its glow.
But most of his works, including “Note by Note” and the complex and jittery “Run Hide Fight,” have an open color scheme with no predominant color. Here the concentric shapes break up into small triangles with daring color combinations – violet and green, turquoise and red playing against each other in a jazzy counterpoint.
In this and other of his works, you can’t help noticing the influence of Richard Diebenkorn’s “Ocean Park” series, but Emerson has taken off in an almost frantic direction, building his abstractions with increasingly intense colors and shapes.
“Not only am I presenting color to resonate on the surface, but to linger in the air,” Emerson states.
Tom Leaver’s diaphanous compositions suggest landscapes from a dream world in which biomorphic forms boil up and burgeon like organisms in a petri dish.
In “What a Pity,” a high silvery sky shines over a foggy landscape with tall trees on the sides and a meandering stream in the foreground. Touches of red, yellow, brown and blue suggest flowers and butterflies. The whole is a fantasy realm that invites you to enter and dwell. Similarly “Wait II” suggests a world either forming or dissolving, its central section a kind of cauldron of nature that suggests elemental growth.
“Where I” posits a rainy sky, dripping down the canvas between sheer cliffs and tall trees. In the lush foreground of “Where II,” a stream flows with growth framed on one side with black drips.
A series of smaller canvases titled “Remember the Moment” are examples of surreal automatism that form dreamy, momentary apprehensions of landscape, a twilight realm that dwells in a liminal space.
In a statement accompanying the show, Leaver writes: “My paintings are often about passages; areas of drift, transitional points, and peripheral views. … I want the viewer to feel something, rather than just see something.”
Mark L. Emerson: The Shape of Rhythm; and Tom Leaver: Where
Where: JayJay, 5520 Elvas Ave.
When: 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday. Through Oct. 25.