The prime of light

Red, yellow and blue get to shine at Avenue 9 group show

Seeing red, naturally, in the “red room” during the opening of <i>Playing With Primaries</i> exhibit at Avenue 9.

Seeing red, naturally, in the “red room” during the opening of Playing With Primaries exhibit at Avenue 9.

Photo By matt siracusa

Avenue 9 Gallery
180 E. Ninth Ave., 879-1821
Hours: Wed.-Sat., noon-5 p.m.

The title of the current multi-artist show running at Avenue 9 Gallery through Aug. 20—Playing with Primaries—makes it sound easy.

Creating a painting that focuses on one of the three primary colors—red, yellow and blue—may indeed sound like child’s play. We all remember finger-painting with those colors as kids—swirling them around on a big piece of butcher paper, and mixing blue with yellow to make green, or red with blue to make purple, or yellow with red to get orange. And then there’s that moment when those three primaries got so smooshed together that they became a big, gloppy, brown mess of paint on our paper.

That was precisely part of the challenge for the painters taking part in the current exhibit—trying to focus on and work with a particular color without destroying its integrity in the process of making it darker or lighter in order to create a scene.

“It’s really hard to work with yellow,” offered Avenue 9 Gallery co-director Dolores Mitchell.

“The problem with yellow is, when you modify it, it tends to turn muddy.”

Mitchell walked over to local painter Anne Gottlieb’s striking, oil-and-oil-pastel landscape painting titled “Sonata in Yellow,” which hangs in the “yellow” section of the current show. (Gottlieb also has “Sonata in Blue” and “Sonata in Red” pieces in the show.)

The artist’s statement hanging next to Gottlieb’s piece reads: “Yellow is one of my favorite colors to paint with, although executing a predominantly yellow painting can be a challenge because of its limited range of values.”

“The hardest color to work with on values is yellow, by far,” Mitchell continued. Values—or color tones that range from light to dark—“give the strongest sense of form and space.

“She’s using the complementary,” Mitchell added, of the touches of purple in Gottlieb’s piece. “But she can’t use too much or it wouldn’t be a yellow painting.”

Mitchell and co-director Maria Phillips chatted as they were putting the finishing touches on the multi-media show that opened July 16 and features photographs, fiber sculptures, quilted pieces and collages in addition to painted works.

Phillips and Mitchell—painters themselves who both have pieces in the show—put out a call for artists who wanted “to take the challenge of emphasizing one of the primary colors per each artwork” they submitted, said Mitchell.

“They could interpret it loosely,” she said of the task, “but it still needed to be obvious” which color they were focusing on.

Daphne Altman brought two yellow cats to the show.

Photo By matt siracusa

The “red room” greets the gallery-goer upon entry through the front door.

From local artist Barbara Morris’ huge, acrylic painting “Red Angry Woman,” to 16-year-old Camber Corron’s “Harley” photograph, to Jerril Dean Kopp’s pastel “Sedona Woman,” to Valerie Payne’s lovely painting of “Grace Wrapped in Red,” to Peter Hogue’s playful photo of a sandwich shack titled “Biscuits Mmmm! Gravy,” it’s all obviously red in the red room.

Notable also is the fact that a number of pieces in the red room have a sensuous quality to them, Anthony Montoya’s “Red Corset”—a claro-walnut, red-metal-flake, leather and wire wall-hanging—being an eye-catching example.

In the “blue” section of the adjoining room hang a number of pieces featuring water and ice. Richard Baldy’s digital photograph “Antarctic Blue”—of icebergs—and photographer Jane King’s “Ice Train” are powerful responses to the gallery’s call for blue, as is Michele Miller’s oddly intriguing “Lake Atitlán,” a photographic piece of a lake overseen by a mountain that looks like it is made of water. The bare branches framing the piece in the foreground give it a delicate, somewhat-Asian feel.

Blue, red and yellow—it’s more complex than you think. Go see for yourself. And don’t be afraid to dive right into some child’s play on Saturdays during the exhibit at the gallery’s hands-on paint-with-primaries table.