Sunday, January 23, 2000

Artist works in primary colors

African paintings on display at Terrill Gallery

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        The first impression is the color orange. Bright orange that comes from the mix of the rich golden yellow and crimson pigments that are the primary, or primal, colors of Jimi Jones' paintings.

        Primal Colors is the title of Mr. Jones' exhibition at the Suzanna Terrill Gallery. It is a “mix of primary colors and the primal idea of African art,” Mr. Jones says.

        These are faces, mostly African faces, that are abstracted into masks, something between a real person and a spiritual evocation of a person. The paintings are the result of the Cincinnati artist's lengthy project to explore the basic nature of art.

        “I spent three years drawing, then two years drawing from European paintings in museums. Now I'm working in the primary colors, red, yellow and blue. The next step will be creating large paintings,” the artist says.

        The paintings and the drawings they are derived from often suggest carving, as if the artist was using a chisel and cutting into wood. The surfaces are faceted with sharp edges, as African carving often is done.

        At the start of the 20th century the discovery of African carved masks and figures was the impetus that led to modern art in Europe.

        Picasso, Matisse and other artists used African design as a way to break out of the European traditions in painting.

        Mr. Jones is “turning that back around,” he says, studying European painting, from Rembrandt to Van Gogh, to learn the rules of painting that Picasso and the rest were eager to discard.

        “African art was the basis of 20th-century European art,” Mr. Jones says. “At the end of the 20th century, it's time for Africa to discover European art.”

        With the powerful colors and the powerful, sculpture-like handling of the surface, the paintings are a fasci nating blend of two cultures.

        Jimi Jones, Primal Colors: Red Blue and Yellow is at the Suzanna Terrill Gallery, 1315 Main St., Over-the-Rhine, through Jan. 30. Gallery hours are 1-6 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday.

        Information: 665-4500.

The Carnegie
        The monthly full house of exhibitions at the Carnegie in Covington spans all kinds of art and crafts.

        The main exhibition is the 15-year retrospective of the Kentucky Arts and Crafts Foundation, showing the work of some of the best crafts artists in the state. There are ceramic artists, fabric artists, wood workers and glass artists, selected to show off the best quality craft arts in a state that is noted for its crafts.

        Stealing the show is Stephen Rolfe Powell, who heads the glass department at Centre College in Danville, Ky., It's a fine example of his incredibly colorful art.

        Three upstairs galleries provide one-artist shows for three artists. Figure painting in oil is Kurt Grannan's specialty, and some small works show promise of an individual approach. Most works though are competent but generic figure studies. The artist has not arrived at the focused body of work that makes the art of the other two artists showing so proficient.

        The marvelously detailed still lifes and interior views of Mary Mark are linoleum prints (linocuts, as artists call them), a medium that few artists, other than Picasso, have pursued.

        Ms. Mark was inspired by Picasso and has spent 20 years mastering the technique. Months of carving and printing go into each image. The prints, which sell through galleries throughout the country, are colorful, complex and intricately textured and detailed.

        Robert Robbins wants to take viewers to “a place which seems familiar yet we know we've never been there before.” He creates wide panoramic views of woodlands deep in shadow.

        The deep blacks come from charcoal. The lights that glow in the woods come from scratching through the black to the painted white paper surface. The drawings draw viewers into the spaces, which are non-specific but which evoke memories. They have a vast sense of scale that pulls the viewer into the image.

        The artist does more than show a picture of a place. He creates a space for the viewer to explore. He is an assistant professor at the Columbus, Ohio, College of Art and Design.

        The exhibitions are at the Carnegie Visual and Performing Arts Center, 1028 Scott Boulevard, through Friday. Hours are 10:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Tuesday-Friday; 1-4 p.m. Saturday. 491-2030.


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