Art Review: “Luminists,” drawings and lithographs by Marcia Blanco, oil-on-linen paintings by David Maille, and giclée prints by Dan O’Donnell.
Two printmakers and a painter share an exhibition at the conjoined community television studios of VCAM and RETN, off Flynn Avenue in Burlington’s South End, through the end of December. While the show is entitled “Luminists,” only the works of New Haven painter David Maille are related to Luminism in the art-historical sense.
The other two exhibitors have technical virtuosity in common. Springfield graphic designer Dan O’Donnell creates vibrant prints of fruit, vegetables and flowers. The precise drawings and lithographs of scientifically trained Marcia Blanco of Burlington are all about rendering and detail.
O’Donnell is a strong colorist who creates robust harmonies in his untitled, simply composed giclée prints from paintings. A pair focused on bright bunches of grapes demonstrates his color sense. Both 18-by-18-inch prints have a purple, yellow and green triadic harmony, but in “reverse” of each other: The first print features purple grapes and a yellow and green background; the other puts yellow grapes over magenta and green. O’Donnell also modulated his backgrounds to give contrapuntal movement: The grapes hang down, while the background of each composition pushes upward. O’Donnell’s prints are crowd-pleasers, but oenophiles in particular might swoon over these images.
A 6-by-15-inch print of a row of three irises from O’Donnell’s “Flowers Series Long” collection relies on the complementary colors orange and blue. His use of negative space is as important as his subjects; the light blue flowers create a rhythmic sequence of shapes as they move across the orange picture plane.
Blanco holds a Master’s of Science degree in Anatomy and Biomedical Illustration from Colorado State University. She’s a respectable draftsman who composes from photographs. Any of her seven black-and-white drawings and lithographs on display here would make decent card or book illustrations.
“Peace amid Chaos” is an 8-by-10-inch lithograph of a toddler snoozing under blankets, in which Blanco slavishly examines every wrinkle of drapery. “The Three Bears” is a 5-by-10-inch lithograph of a mother polar bear and her two cubs, heaped together in a sparse landscape “waiting for ice to form,” as Blanco notes in a write-up next to the painting. While she stresses a few key lines among the bears, the narrative is of paramount importance in all of Blanco’s work.
Maille’s 20 untitled paintings are the most intellectually engaging pieces in this show. His canvasses and works on panel take the greatest technical and conceptual risks. Those elements may be, at least in part, what separates fine art from commercial illustration and design.
Maille’s 27-by-72-inch panoramic landscape describes an abstract white snowpack spread over brown hills, distilling the landscape into essential forms. A line of evergreens buttresses the dramatic, irregularly shaped white mass and provide the only real color in an otherwise monochromatic painting.
Maille’s brushwork is astutely varied. This is most evident in his smaller pieces, such as in a 9-by-12-inch scene of a tree-filled promontory. The land juts into a placid, golden lake while a long strand of white sunlight appears along the horizon behind the feathery trees. Maille brings emotion and depth to the picture with ethereal, Prussian-blue clouds and diagonal sheets of raw-umber glazing. While his palette is consciously limited, his paint handling is rich and complex.
Twentieth-Century French painter Jean Dubuffet once said, “Art addresses itself to the mind and not to the eyes.” With the exception of Maille’s best works, “Luminists” falls short of that standard. Blanco and O’Donnell are both very good at producing decorative images, but that’s not the kind of lightness expected from the show’s title.
On the plus side, viewers who seek out the exhibition will have an opportunity to enjoy visual art on several levels. This diversity is one of the strengths of Burlington’s lively South End art scene.