Linda Caputo Undertakes An Engaging Dialogue Between Drawing And Painting.
By Margaret Regan
DESPITE ITS REPUTATION for inventing a new aesthetic that has nothing to do with the "real" world, abstract art very often draws its imagery from recognizable objects. In fact, much abstract painting re-envisions the undulating lines of the lands around us or the geometric hardscapes of our cities or the soft yielding shapes of the human body. And it relies on the emotional power of color.
That certainly is the case with Linda Caputo, a Tucson painter who has filled Dinnerware Gallery with a collection of 18 fine mixed-media paintings. On one level, these abstract works on paper are straightforward explorations of color against color, experiments in the shock of a shot of lime-green chalk against
flaming orange-red paint ("Simple Burn") or airy cerulean blue and bright yellow bursting out of earthbound browns and purples ("Bruised").
They're also about the contrast between Caputo's carefully controlled paint, and the wild abandon of the markings she's scratched into her pigments. These scratches create lots of interesting surface texture, acting as drawings that both float above the painting and interact with it. Like "Simple Burn," where the scratches are so plentiful they actually become part of the formal composition, the finished works undertake an engaging dialogue between drawing and painting. Then, too, the paintings play with overlapping planes. One of the best pieces in the show is "Nooba--Place of Turning," a lovely painting that explores the myriad shades of gray. Also one of the larger works, at about 24-by-24 inches, the layerings in this painting amount almost to an optical illusion: a series of gray painted planes seem to be peeling back, like curled paper, to reveal other colored layers underneath, including a brilliant swathe of pink and red.
In fact, many of the works play with the idea of a passage from one plane to another, which brings me back to my original point. It's a short leap from the simple geometry of these planes to the complex psychology of life passages. Obviously, Caputo's works can be read formally, as experiments in color and composition, but they readily suggest "real-life" interpretations. The shadowy painted planes in these pieces nearly always suggest a sense of place, from the claustrophobic cave-like curves of "Bruised" to the city-shapes of "Nooba." There are architectural elements ("Seduction" and "Adjusted Encounter") and suggestions of plants and animals ("Blue Skar" and "Camouflage").
Caputo's titles point us toward a psychological dimension, and her colors emphasize the works' emotional component. For example, the dark purples and browns of "Bruised" are in fact the colors of bruises to the body, and the confining composition suggests some kind of emotional entrapment. Caputo continues the metaphor in this work's passage from darkness to the light, via the oval of blue and yellow that bursts into the space like the redeeming dawn. In "Nooba--Place of Turning," the vaguely suggested gray skyscrapers again seem to be turning toward a brilliantly pink--optimistic--new day.
Not all the pieces have the same one-two punch of physical and emotional power. "Lacuna" reinterprets a map of the world, with the green land masses inevitably separated by the gaps (or lacunae) of the oceans. Caputo apparently intended this to be a statement about cultural misunderstandings, but it comes across as more illustrational, and less interesting, than the other works in the show. Nevertheless, in the great bulk of her attractive paintings, the artist shows herself adept at traveling the passages between aesthetic and emotional concerns, and back again.
Linda Caputo: New Work, Mixed Media on Paper continues through Saturday, December 21, at Dinnerware Artists' Cooperative Gallery, 135 E. Congress St. Gallery hours are noon to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, with extended hours until 7 p.m. every Thursday for Art Walk, and from 7 to 10 p.m. on Downtown Saturday Nights. For more information call 792-4503.
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