Exhibit Demonstrates the Artistry Possible in Water MediaThe old red REO pictured in UMUC’s Arts Program Gallery must have been one sweet ride in its heyday. In the skilled hands of the artist who painted it, the REO remains unsentimentally magnificent—and captured the grand award in the 2014 Mid-Atlantic Regional Watercolor Exhibition, sponsored by the Baltimore Watercolor Society and hosted by UMUC.
In part, the REO is a standout because of an unexpected use of color. “This artist has used all kinds of wonderful purples and blues in the chrome and on the red of the REO’s body to capture the rust and the wear,” said UMUC Arts Program Curator Brian Young. But at the same time the artist kept “a bit of the solemnity” that Young associates with Charles Sheeler or Charles Demuth, two of his favorite artists from the post-World War I Precisionist era. “It’s a piece you should really check out,” he said.
There is still time. The exhibit, which runs to August 24th, comprises more than five dozen paintings that Young “in some ways” organized by like matter … figures near figures, urbanscapes near urbanscapes. Visitors can readily observe how different artists handle the same subject and judge for themselves which paintings are most successful.
Originality and degree of technical skill are the two criteria Young often uses to evaluate a work of art. For example, in “Found My Marbles” the artist is trying to differentiate between the glass of a marble and the Mason jar that is holding it. And it is well done, in part, because we can tell where the Mason jar starts and stops, where the marbles start and stop. “And we can also tell that the color is inherent to the marbles not the Mason jar and is reflected into the Mason jar. That is no small task,” Young said.
Young describes watercolor as an unforgiving medium; you don’t get many mistakes. So, the challenge of painting lettering, particularly on the white of the paper, requires that the artist be a really good draftsperson. In the painting of the juicer, the lettering is masterful.
“It’s the way that we’re able to tell this metallic piece has been stamped. You have to have really good physical control to do the straight edges of letters that have been stamped in the metal, and you have to understand the way the light works across metal and the way that shadow is cast. It is really expertly done,” Young said.
A watercolor needn’t follow prescribed compositional lines to be successful. In fact, a lot of the great watercolors are more loosely constructed, Young said. And they needn’t be awash with color. Young describes one of the works, a painting of a train yard, as a virtual symphony of grey and black, with the white of the paper, some graphite, “and then just a couple of daubs of this liquid red that seem to dance across the surface both as reflection of light and then light itself.”
Said Young, this artist understands the spirit of really great watercolor, of creating an atmosphere of place, rather than the verisimilitude of what it might look like during a snapshot during the day with a photograph. And that is part of the delight of watercolor as well.
Exhibition Closes August 24, 2014
Hours: 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Daily
Location Arts Program Gallery Lower Level, College Park Marriott Hotel & Conference Center at UMUC