Among its manifold functions, art can impart serenity otherwise lacking in life at any given moment – say, amid a global pandemic – and in that manner, tandem current exhibitions at the Duane Reed Gallery may help viewers recenter themselves despite COVID-19 trials and tribulations.
The longtime venue in St. Louis’ Central West End neighborhood opened Ahzad Bogosian’s “Sanctuary” and Jeffrey Vaughn’s “Quiet Beauty” on Halloween. Slightly less than three weeks remain for local art aficionados to appreciate the two exhibitions, which close on Dec. 22 and which both feature art created in this figuratively and literally plagued year.
Both “Sanctuary” and “Quiet Beauty” revel in chiaroscuro – basically, the use of contrasts (frequently bold ones) between light and dark in a composition, often in service of approximating three-dimensionality.
Bogosian’s works at the Reed generally involve distant landscapes, although the phrase skyscapes might better describe them: views of the heavens in multifarious spectral splendor, with earthly context minimalized.
By way of example, the 24-inch-square Radiance, an acrylic-and-oil canvas, exults in ginger, tangerine, marigold and other shades of orange, depicting both the sky at dawn or dusk and its reflection in a body of water of some sort, the two unevenly split by a thin, shadowy swath of land.
Conversely, in the smaller of the gallery’s two exhibitions, Vaughn’s works tend to focus much more tightly on his subjects, which customarily hew to a botanical and often floral motif.
For instance, A Rose at Sunset, an 18-inch-square oil painting on linen, showcases just such a flower – perhaps an ‘Amazing Grace’ varietal or a ‘World War II Memorial Rose’ – in exquisitely delicate pink and cream, with flushes of yellow and lilac, surrounded by blurry green and yellow stems and leaves.
“Being a landscape painter with a decades-long career in observing and painting the Midwest and West, during the pandemic, [painting] became even more of a sanctuary for me,” Bogosian, who hails from St. Louis, relates of the genesis of the works in his exhibition.
“Being outside in the air, away from people, not having to wear a mask and taking in all of the air/light and terrain allow me to move beyond the current state of the world. My work has always been about my emotional response to landscape, utilizing photos/memory and sketches.
“Most people and collectors of my work resonate with the serene and emotional qualities of my paintings, and during these stressful times, if I can take them away from that even briefly, I feel I have done my job as an artist.”
As the inspiration for his own works, meanwhile, Alton native Vaughn cites one of the metro area’s most lapidary landmarks, now nearing 90. “A few years ago, I discovered the exquisite lily ponds for painting at the Jewel Box in Forest Park and decided to build the show on images of flowers in the St. Louis area,” he relates.
“There are four water lily paintings based on these exquisite ponds. The largest painting in the show is an image of dogwood blossoms above a rushing stream and boulders at Hawn State Park, near Farmington. The other four paintings are inspired by the myriad of roses in the rose garden at Gordon F. Moore Park in Alton.”
As noted, chiaroscuro effects abound in Vaughn’s exhibition: “The interplay of light, translucency and shadow on the flowers, water and intimate landscape is a thread that runs through all the paintings. Typically, the images are painted from photographs made to capture the fleeting light from the sun low in the sky. Oil paint is blended directly onto the surface, which creates a subtle impasto. These abstract concerns of color, light and shadow are meant to convey the quiet beauty of nature.”
In that respect, in an era entrenched in the novel coronavirus, both Vaughn’s exhibition and Bogosian’s may well provide visitors to the Reed much-needed luminous relief.
Duane Reed Gallery, 4729 McPherson Ave., St. Louis, 314-361-4100, duanereedgallery.com