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More Interesting than Realism

‘Agency, Industry, Infinity’ at Portrait Society

May. 10, 2016
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When you walk into the exhibition “Agency, Industry, Infinity” at Portrait Society Gallery, there is an immediate impact of color, texture and strange dislocation.

Robin Jebavy paints large canvases that challenge the still life genre. She is influenced by Baroque artists of the 17th century—especially those who captured flourishes of light on elegant objects like glassware and pewter. In Jebavy’s handling, things like hobnail compotes and fluted, footed goblets are articulated by prismatic effects. Looking at her paintings is like admiring an antique shop through a kaleidoscope. 

Often a single object is a center point, and from there Jebavy spirals out through an array of companion shapes. Layer upon layer is built up with translucent effects, but she smartly dispenses with rigid adherence to logic. Glassware is reflected and joined by its mirrored twin, but elsewhere refractions appear out of nowhere and pull us into a dreamy wonderland with a Cézanne-esque flourish. The scale of her work defies traditional notions of still life as demure and modest; Jebavy enlarges it into a grand, hypnotic celebration.

Rosemary Ollison’s work is transformative in the way she freely dispenses with realism for something more interesting. She presents numerous works on paper—including a series of portraits of women titled Me Too Ladies. As with many of her pieces, these are composed as ink drawings decorated by dots of glitter. The immediacy of her figures is boldly conceptual as they convey individual powers of style, poise and freedom. Ollison’s creative work also finds outlet in monumental textiles where layered bits of fabric, paint and hanging threads join in rhythms of abstract design.

Artist Ted Brusubardis shows Ollison at work in her apartment. His eloquent, four-channel video is installed in a room inspired by her living space. Visitors sit inside a darkened room where every inch is covered in fabric and pattern, accented by her abstract sculpture.

Jebavy and Ollison—Master of Fine Arts graduate early in her career and septuagenarian self-taught artist, respectively—work in from different directions, but their pairing meets in the middle of an infinitely complex aesthetic maze.

Through May 28 at Portrait Society Gallery, 207 E. Buffalo St., Fifth Floor.

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