Corrections or additions?
This article by F.R. Rivera was prepared for the September 18, 2002 edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.
Art Review: Watercolor Society
Since its founding in 1970, the stated goal of the
Garden State Watercolor Society has been to encourage and support
fine watercolor painting. The medium seeks — like drawing —
to capture the immediacy of the site, the season, the subject, by
using the informal shorthand of the Impressionist.
Watercolor, inevitably, lives in the shadow of easel painting. This
is not to say, however, that great watercolor cannot be resplendent
in itself. Take, for example, John Singer Sargent who brought his
dazzling brushwork to the medium.
When figures are the subject of watercolor, they are generally
to a landscape or an interior. Rarely do we find full portraiture
of the figure in watercolor. There are notable exceptions to this
practice in the Garden State show. They include Roberta Carter Clark’s
portrait of a full-bearded "Mike" in a wide-brimmed hat. In
James Toogood’s portrait, "Sophia," the subject’s nuanced
complexion of pumpkin and honey is exquisite against a dark green
ground. Far more stylized, but just as memorable, is Santo Pezzutti’s
"A Cup of Tea." Like a raven’s wing, a diagonal swathe of
hair breaks the symmetry of the model’s face.
We’ve come to expect from watercolor — and it is not denied to
us here — depictions of flowers, harbors and boats, seascapes,
and all kinds of landscapes. As Harry Naar, gallery director, writes
in his forward to the show’s catalogue, "Traveling exposed artists
to different types of topography."
Much of this work in the show is skillfully painted. There are a few
examples to the contrary, but most of the watercolors are faithful
documentations of where the artist has been. Outcomes differ very
little from postcards with their tendency to romanticize and sanitize.
Watercolorists would be well advised to avoid prettiness
and embrace inventiveness, as did painter John Marin. Even when he
worked in oil, he adapted the watercolorist’s penchant for leaving
large areas blank. Similarly, the late Larry Rivers annotated large,
open areas with fragmentary marks and washes that are characteristic
of the watercolor approach. This improvisational method invites
and engages their attention through challenge, rather than feel-good
An example of this technique is Joyce McAfee’s horizon painting,
"Take A Moment," where veils of pink, umbers, and pale blues
spread seductively across the sky. Others who achieve these effects
are Jane Law ("Georgia on My Mind [Again]"); and Lucy Graves
McVicker ("Unspeakable Peace III"). In Law’s work, blinding
white — like some concentrate of bleach — purges detail; while
McVicker depicts a pasture of grainy mustard browns and greens in
In Karen Hoffman’s handsome composition "The Weight of Water,"
an arcing curtain of blue descends on a string of pebbles that fold
lovingly into its embrace. Equally abstract is Nancy Lee Kern’s
Storm" where a churning cloud of scarlet drubs the earth below.
Similar effects are evident in the work of Walter M. Bill, Robert
Heyer, Annette Novoa, Anthony Ventura, and Joseph Gyursak.
These works are classical watercolors, characterized by the use of
transparent paint that is diluted with water. In its purest form,
watercolor is not opaque. It reserves and protects the virginal white
of the page in order to bring a sparkle to the finished surface. The
white of the paper filters through the paint film to bring a wonderful
luminosity to the work.
These paintings share wall space with a number of works done in
media (gouache, acrylic, and casein), all of which employ opaque
killing off the prized white of the page.
There are a few well-intentioned pieces that have the look of magazine
illustrations. Not surprisingly, these offer a literal depiction of
From the 167 pieces submitted for this show, jurors Joe Frasetta and
Donald W. Patterson selected 49 pieces, 16 of which won cash awards.
Overall, the jurors did a creditable job; and this survey represents
what is going on inside the Garden State Watercolor Society.
— F.R. Rivera
Gallery, Lawrenceville, 609-896-5325. Awards reception. Gallery open
Tuesday to Thursday, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Sunday, noon to 4 p.m. To
September 27. Saturday, September 21, 2 to 5 p.m.
Corrections or additions?
This page is published by PrincetonInfo.com
— the web site for U.S. 1 Newspaper in Princeton, New Jersey.