||Kathleen Morris and Ida Applebroog at Lowe Gallery, Jan. 15-Mar. 20, 1999, 75 Bennett Street, Atlanta, Ga. 30309.
The current show of works by Kathleen Morris and Ida Applebroog at Atlanta's Lowe Gallery offers a rich and dark view of humanity.
Morris makes emotive paintings that are a textured fusion of sense and sensuality. Her large, dreamlike portraits and figures seem to reveal an anguished dimension of the female persona. Her full-lipped, dark-eyed subjects are like haunted souls.
Morris uses imprecise brushstrokes and varied densities of pigment to give a physicality to the emotion in her images. Mottled clumps of color, grainy spots and areas drizzled with thinned out oils give the canvases a topographical quality.
Quest (1998) is a 95 by 77 inch portrait of an open-mouthed young girl. Painted in chalky yellow ochre, red orange, blues and browns, the girl has a slightly surprised expression. In another work, titled Reason, Morris gives the visage blind eyes. The lips of this deathly pale young woman hold a faint smile.
An equally enormous image, Host (1998), pictures the flower-crowned head of a male figure. Numbers are dotted around his face, as if to diagram its features. Thick lips and sculpted nose, cheeks and chin outline his corporeality. Wreath, hair, brow and eyes are blurred by dripping strands of paint. His eyes look down and inward in meditation. In this and her other subjects, Morris shapes the figure of the soul.
In a separate section of the gallery are excerpts from Ida Applebroog's "Nothing Personal," a recent exhibition at the Corcoran Gallery in Washington, D.C. That 10-year survey captured the rhythm of her stark, flat paintings as well as the artist's perceptions about daily life and relationships. These disquieting works juxtapose images of humor and sadness, nurturing and pain, acceptance and denial.
Applebroog gets under the skin of the seeming innocence of the child's nursery world. She fills differently sized canvases with vignettes and portraits that interact with and contradict "truths" about childhood and growing up. Rapunzel is about personal isolation. One potato, two potato and Three potato, four show the immoral, sad and punishing side of rhyming games.
Sacrament/Flatulent (1991), a horizontal 86 by 127 inch painting in seven parts, works the same way to hack away at icons of purity and religion. A swarm of fish, colored tobacco spittle brown, swim about a naked red demon boy who twists and pulls at the neck of a sacrificial turtle. Above him, two small birds perch together on a row of barbed wire.
Of similar dimensions, the five-paneled Sacrifice/Paradise (1990) examines the rationale for making war. The work depicts a boy holding a huge gun. Above and to his right, a man sits on a tightrope. Another square of canvas shows his future: a lonely visage with a bandaged eye. Below, in three serial images, a woman rubs a dog, a man pulls at a rope, and two girls stand side-by-side, holding hands. To the left, an old couple carries buckets of water, three men fall against each other like dominoes. Piece by piece, Applebroog constructs powerfully uncomfortable narratives about us.
CATHY BYRD is an Atlanta artist and writer.