Anne Grandin's "Neptune." Photo courtesy of Hastings Gallery
Anne Grandin's "Neptune." Photos courtesy of Hastings Gallery

A powerful punch

By Brooks Robards - September 7, 2006

Oak Bluffs's Hastings in the Alley opened a new show last weekend that packs quite a punch for such a small gallery. Seven artists, most of whom are regulars, are exhibiting new work: Anne Grandin, Csaba Osvath, Ovid Ward, Tom McQuade, Rick Hoffman, Ron Hall, and James Murray.

Gallery owner Kate Goodridge does an especially good job of displaying these artists to their best advantage. Unlike so many Vineyard galleries, Hastings in the Alley favors abstract art.

Vineyard Haven's Anne Grandin draws inspiration from Native American culture and its emphasis on the circle of life. Her paintings, which most often take off from a realist perspective and grow organically, have been described as reminiscent of Georgia O'Keeffe.

Her four new paintings use a cerebral approach to the application of paint and rely on flat, almost glossy surfaces to entice the viewer into her imaginative worlds. The artist favors a palette of muted earth tones.

Csaba Osvath uses elegant lines. Photo courtesy of Hastings Gallery
Csaba Osvath uses elegant lines.

Through the erotic forms of "Living Worlds," Ms. Grandin establishes an acute sense of balance paradoxically full of movement. The focal center of the landscape, "In a Balance," with its tree containing a luminous depiction of the earth as a globe, prods the viewer into thinking about landscape as ecology.

The most lyrical of Ms. Grandin's four works is "Forest Walk," where she uses soft greens and browns to depict a shadowy woods and a brook that winds toward a brighter horizon. An untitled abstract painting uses darker colors to establish an underground web of spaces and forms with windows into other worlds.

In contrast, Rick Hoffman's abstract paintings emphasize almost sculpturally tactile surfaces. Filled with vibrant green squares, "Veranda" pulsates with color and texture. "Trillium" turns lush pinks, grays, and white inside out, while the smaller "Blue Boat/Whirlwind" fills its canvas surface with a swirl of colors that seem ready to spin off the canvas.

"Parade" eponymously invokes the fanfare of music and marching in red, white, and blue with accents of green and occasional scribbles that push the painting away from cliché. Ms. Goodridge says that once while sitting in a room full of Mr. Hoffman's paintings, she thought they seemed to start breathing and she could practically smell them.

Hungarian-born Csaba Osvath is based in Sarasota, Fla., the site of Ms. Goodridge's second gallery, and has a doctorate in theology and art. Narratives lurk in the figures in his paintings, enhanced with ridges and projections, and suggest a quasi-symbolic sense of prophesy.

The artist uses melted candlewax in "Woman in Candlelight" to project a hyper-real world. Often focusing on women's faces and eyes, Mr. Osvath composes a work of fragmented, overlapping faces in "Bathing in the River at Midnight." The vivid colors of his paintings generate a sense of optimism and happiness, as in "Love at First Sight."

In "The Storyteller," Mr. Osvath has wedded abstraction with a figurative approach in a work where eyes and green dominate. Green again is the color motif in "Self Portrait," where the artist holds a parrot.

Tom McQuade offers another approach to abstraction. It is one in which form and color lead the viewer into compositions that in "Reflection" suggest the fluidity of watercolor through its welding of soft blues and mauves. "Arizona" balances earthy browns and yellows in another pleasing composition.

The suggestion of boat or fruit-bowl forms in a peach-colored background takes "Untitled-2006" to the verge of realism without crossing the line. Mr. McQuade uses a deeper color palette with touches of navy, blue, red, green and yellow in "Reflections," while another untitled work unifies red, peach, green, and yellow forms.

Ron Hall has 16 photographs on display, reflecting a variety of styles. Six of his palladium prints, in which the iron-based developing process is used on archival paper, exhibit a fineness of detail equivalent to etching.

A series of his color prints depicting skies at sunset at West Chop and other locations explore the abstract beauty of sky, clouds, water, and horizon. In another, "Night Skyline," the artist uses an open shutter to compose a suite of zigzagging lights.

James Murray's 16 pieces demonstrate the versatility of this prolific sculptor. Several - "Goatee," "Shell #2" and "Shell #3" - simplify form in ways reminiscent of Brancusi. This sculptor also delves into furniture as narrative with "Queequeg's Coffin" and "Reclining Totem," where he takes a found wood object, distress-paints it and puts legs on it.

"Trough" turns maple and poplar into a nest of arcs finished to look like metal. Ever playful, Mr. Murray has made the Calder-style mobile into his own by hanging painted lobster claws and oar locks on a boat's compass ring.

Ms. Goodridge describes Hastings in the Alley as "a seasoned departure slightly off the beaten track." It is far from off the beaten track of contemporary currents in art.