Jim Lee, Jon Poblador, "New Paintings," Feb. 2-Mar. 24, 2001, at Larry Becker Contemporary Art, 43 North 2nd Street, Philadelphia, Pa. 19106.
Jim Lee and Jon Poblador's paintings at Larry Becker Gallery have everything -- and nothing -- in common. Extrovert and introvert, they hang companionably on the walls and complement each other, carrying on a lively conversation about the art and life and the process of painting. Poblador is the calm essayist. Lee is the sparkling wit. It makes for a great pairing.
Poblador, 29, and Lee, 31, who have both been included in group shows at Becker over the past several years, here appear with eight works apiece in what amounts to two side-by-side solo outings. Recent graduates of MFA programs in the Philadelphia region, both demonstrate fully formed, mature visions.
Poblador, who graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 1997, takes a Zen-like approach in his acrylic on linen paintings, building up large color fields through application of small, delicate and regular strokes of paint, left to right and right to left across the canvas. This unity of "one from many," often involving numerous layers of paint, results in works with vague traces of individual marks that maintain their overall contemplative character from afar.
Stacking two or three areas of closely related color on top of each other -- sometimes on one canvas, sometimes with groupings of smaller canvases side-by-side -- Poblador achieves a kind of tripartite split -- sky, horizon line and foreground -- that suggests a distilled landscape. His colors, earthy muddy green-browns and cloudy-day blue-white-grays, also suggest landscape.
Titles like Savage Land, Mojave or McMurdo (a military base in Antarctica), evoke places in the real world. But the self-contained and inward-looking works, more phantoms of place than descriptions, suggest mystical, albeit reductivist excursions to climes more fictitious than real.
Lee, who received his MFA from the University of Delaware in 1996, makes small, bright and seductive 3-D paintings with dollhouse-like intimacy and luscious surface coatings -- creamy whites, bright, OSHA yellows or pistachio greens. The wood or honeycomb panel cube-like constructions (no bigger than seven inches on a side) look like mystery mini-shelters and, hung at eye level, they invite a close encounter.
Lee works with a combination of oil and latex, acrylic and latex, or rubber and latex, in many built-up layers. The result is a satiny-smooth, Dairy Queen-dipped, confectionary finish that hits some deep, sensuous, food-related childhood memory. Even the under-sides of these paintings deliver -- offering up fat and "frozen" drips of paint -- colorful stalactite buds for painting's "New Age."
Lee's paintings bubble with a generosity and a joy in their making. Puddy and Tonka, with their silly, punning titles and worldly focus, assert the here and now, the real and the snappy part of life. Like exclamation points to Poblador's steady stream of uninflected prose, they bring the gallery to a giddy level of oxygenation.
ROBERTA FALLON is an artist and writes about art for Philadelphia Weekly and Art on Paper magazine.