Spotlight on Nebraska Abstract Artists in New Show

by Kim Carpenter, Omaha World Herald, Feb. 27, 2020

Walk into Gallery 1516, and the first thing you notice is how strikingly different all the works on view are. Spontaneity: 10 Nebraska Abstract Painters is a show title that leads viewers to expect a straightforward showcase of abstract artists, but surprises with the sheer diversity of approaches featured.
The exhibition was the brainchild of Beverly Todd, one of the 10 artists included in the gallery's lineup.
"I felt that Nebraska needed to share its abstract artists with the public," she said. "There is a great diversity and richness here, and I thought we should bring together that diversity to celebrate and explore abstract art."
In addition to Todd, "spontaneity" includes work by James Bockelman, Dan Howard, Jerry Jacoby, Diane Lounsberry-Williams, Ann Pape, Larry roots, Mark Sabaliauskas, Nancy Teague and JK Thorsen.
Understanding abstract art is a primary goal of the show. Viewers can sometimes grapple with appreciating abstract art, even though it traces its origins back to the late 19th century and enjoyed particular favor with critics and the public during its 20th-century heyday.
Todd acknowledges the genre can be challenging.
"You're not looking at a cow or a barn," she said. "Abstract art takes you to a deeper space that's very gestural. It's like a ballet on canvas."
Gallery director Patrick Drickey agreed. "A lot of times people say, 'My kid could do that.' I say, 'If your kid can do that, you better encourage them!'" he said. "This show gives you a better understanding of what abstract art is, from more representational images to pure expressionism."
Avoiding comparing and contrasting the works is impossible. stand in front of Howard's "summer — Nebraska, 1980," and you're struck by the landscape that emerges from the vigorously applied abstract strokes on the canvas. switch gears to take in Jacoby's "spaces & structure," and you're faced with a cubist exploration that employs geometric and architectural forms in bright, bold colors.
Both paintings are abstract, and yet they couldn't be more different from one another.
How should viewers approach that kind of multiplicity?
Todd encourages the public to be open minded. "Look for the highs and lows and get caught up in the emotion," she said. "I encourage people to sit or stand directly in front of a work. The longer you do so, the more details you discover in each piece of art. The physical and personal responses are each so different, and you really begin to notice them."
Teague's works "Blue Wonder" and "Into My day" are two of Todd's favorites. Vibrantly bright, the splashes of color embody the show's title.
"Her work is so colorful and high energy," Todd said. "she does everything with a palette knife, and when you look at her paintings, you feel the force of her work."
In contrast, Lounsberry-Williams' approach is more muted. Working in layers of oil paint and cold wax, the artist builds textured layers that are calming and meditative. "Coming home," created in a soft green, is a soothing painting that quietly works with the push and pull of shape, color and line.
The range of visual effects in the survey is what excites Drickey.
"There is such a variety of abstract art being created in the state," he said. "This is as good as it gets — and it's all here."
Gallery 1516, 1516 Leavenworth St. Spontaneity: 10 Nebraska Abstract Painters.
 Open through May 17, 2020. 
 
Gallery hours: 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday. admission: free. gallery1516.org or 402-305-1510.

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