BY JOSEF WOODARD,
March 16, 2012 ART REVIEW "Peripheral Visions," Abstract Art Collective
When: through March 25 Where: Cabrillo Pavilion Arts Center, 1118 Cabrillo Blvd.
Gallery hours: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday
Information: 897‐1982 santabarbaraca.gov/beachfront/cabrillo
Of all Santa Barbara's places to see art, the Cabrillo Pavilion Arts Center may be among the most powerfully scenic — almost to a point of distraction. This historic East Beach structure hosts an assortment of art shows throughout each year in its large ballroom/all‐purpose room. With a stunning broad picture window facing the beach, the blue Pacific and islands beyond, concentrating on the artistic wares on display is a challenge. The visual/ambient competition is unfair.
Ironically or not, the distraction syndrome is especially noticeable when the work on view is of the landscape, or particularly seascape sort. It's at least a slightly different story with a show such as "Peripheral Visions," the current showing of artists belonging to the local organization known as the Abstract Art Collective.
Here, a widely and wildly varied range of art, in style, visual voice — and also artistic skill levels — heeds an internally‐referential agenda, not representative of the natural or real world as we know it. If there is an unwritten theme to this necessarily mixed bag of a show, it has to do with the innately personalizing instincts of abstract artists, seeking out the forms, visual and mediumistic modes that best suit expressive urges from a very divergent place from, say, a seascape painter.
Karen Pendergrass' "Water's Edge," for example, combines rectilinear structures in the structural foundation of the painting, with looser material and ragged surface on top. Control and free‐hand forays work in accord and tension. By contrast, Wayne J. Hoffman finds a different relationship of those qualities with his sensuous painting "Largo," in which luminous, softedged and stacked horizontal bands of color convey a muted, crepuscular mood befit the title's musical reference to a slow, languid musical movement.
Meanwhile, Pamela Benham's nearby untitled painting is a much larger and more flamboyant — and flame‐like — expression of unhinged color and gesture. That painting shouts for joy, maybe with a tinge of angst, while Harry Brown's "Night Whispers" lives up to its title by moving in the opposite temperamental direction. Swaths of lighter brush strokes amidst the blueblack nocturnal void gives off impressions of wind or ghostly energy source in the dead of night.
Nearby, set on posts in the room that force the viewer to admire the ocean panorama beyond the window, Beth Schmoor's paintings shift gears from brooding dark to giddy green, in "Contemplation" and "Sunset Cocktails," respectively. As if to mediate the inner worlds with the hosting gallery environment, however accidentally, Maria D. Miller's "Awakening" does seem to layer its content and form, shifting from pure abstraction to evocations of the word we know. That specific world hinted here is one of an ultrasoft‐ focused seascape‐ish setting, with its burst of yellow illumination — the "awakening" drama element — and suggestions of land and sea in the picture. But rest assured, the specifics have been thoroughly abstracted and poeticized, insuring the artist's validity in this collective. From another angle, arts organizations and public exhibitions like these serve to remind us that abstraction is very much an ongoing tradition, a century and change down the art historical road.
Starting from top:
WAYNE J. HOFFMAN
Josef Woodard Photos