Montgomery Gazette

NEPTUNE’S “JANUARY”: FULL OF COLOR, BUT NOT MUCH PLAY

by Claudia Rousseau

January 20, 2010

The “January” exhibit at Gallery Neptune in Bethesda is all about color – bright, warm and inviting. In the smooth, modern setting of the gallery’s architecture, these works, by seven gallery artists, are bright spots of engaging imagery. Although certainly not homogenous in any sense, all the works share a distinct duality: colorful, even childlike at times, but certainly not without a dark side.

The painted works of Wayne Paige are striking formally and for their particular imagery. Using a repeating figure abstracted from an old-fashioned clothespin, Paige creates works that seem like fables, strange dream worlds of black silhouettes and pointillist blue landscapes, punctuated by hot orange halos. In “Fallen Giants,” a two-part work, very large versions of the black figure seem to have fallen over curved hills painted with small dots of blue and orange. Small orange versions of the figures float like schools of fish in black ribbon-like roads, while mid-sized versions stand alongside. One “giant” has ladders lying over it, recalling the Lilliputians climbing over the “giant” in “Gulliver’s Travels.” Although the black forms themselves aren’t threatening, the entire concept feels nightmarish. A word play on the ancient Colossus of Rhodes, “The Colossi of Roads,” shows a huge clothespin figure striding over two ribbon highways filled with the little orange figures.

This kind of punning title seems to appeal to Paige who also uses them for his pen and ink drawings. From the “01” series, in which the clothespin figures are put in densely drawn settings, “Binary Blues” (a figure crying O’s and 1’s) and “Men Rays” (referencing the photographer Man Ray)are technically brilliant; they look more like etchings than pen drawings.

With their combination of volumetric pointillist settings, color contrasts and flat silhouetted figures, the large paintings are compelling. Yet, I was drawn to Paige’s smaller ink drawings where the concentration of flowing lines holds the viewer more completely in its thrall.