Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Leigh Werrell, Bettina Nelson and Mary Putman at Gross McCleaf Gallery

Beware the Bear, by Leigh Werrell

Leigh Werrell's paintings and Bettina Nelson's collages share the show's title of "A Likely Story," one of those clever word plays that has an ironic as well as earnest reading. Likely stories abound, and the seeking is a large part of the fun. It is why I write these occasional blog reviews.

Leigh Werrell's paintings include gouaches that notice life in the sense of environments peopled with explorers. People are simple, and the world is complex, you might think at first, while looking at these charming works. The paintings seem apropos our time and human experience. The charm is a little like the charm of Sarah McEneaney or Katherine Bradford.
One of the overlooked compositional schemes is that of cave paintings. Using a naturally occurring architecture of surprise turns and mysterious peril, those artists long ago made early installations. The caves were ready museums devoted to exploration and surprise discoveries, even the sort one makes in dreams. So it can seem that our era has revived installation, while also inspiring some new idea in the painter's notion of composition.
Leigh Werrell's paintings authentically and originally trace the adventure of youth in a new world, something art refreshes in us, but here really lets us notice and feel delight in. Her paintings may arise from that milieu of installations as well as the sense of a world filled with discoveries and discoveries to come.

Bettina Nelson uses the process of discovered things in her beautiful, small collage pieces. They achieve enough imagery that the mood can be assigned to both subject and means as an abstract expression.

The gallery itself is one of the more complex art spaces in the city of Philadelphia. The visitor ascends from street level up a central stairway. The furthest of the galleries repeats the strong classical aspect of that first ascent by the powerful one point perspective paintings of Mary Putman.  The way there meanders in a route of discoveries. Even the racks in another gallery upstairs from this add to the exploratory excitement of a visit. This architecture helps choose the work, and it is an interesting journey of contrasting and complimentary exhibits.
For information and the gallery's complete show