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New Art: The Real And The Invented 

Gallery works represent different modes of tradition

In realist art, the artist is concerned with depicting the world as it is; in abstract art, the artist creates his or her own reality.

Representational art, which also depicts "real" objects, may not be entirely "realistic," seeking to use the appearance of things to offer interpretations of the world. Abstract art is sometimes defined by what it's not, and called "non-representational." Another popular moniker from art school days is figurative, which implies a deliberate intention to depict a subject in the way the eye sees it. To complete the lexicon, abstraction can also be described as "non-figurative" -- the product of the emotions or the intellect, rather than the eye.

Queen's Gallery and Center of the Earth Gallery currently show some of the best examples of artists working in the figural, realist or representational traditions, and the work at these two venues depicts a pretty thorough cross-section of the genres.

At Queen's Gallery, longtime member of the Ben Long team, painter Charles Kapsner, displays a handful of small oil on linen paintings, including "Apple" and "Upper and Lower Kingdom II." These gems constitute some of the area's finest examples of classical representation.

Another talented local artist in this milieu is Robert Crum, whose own oil on linen paintings are quite fine. Also painted in the classical tradition, Crum's "Two Pears" and "La Spezie de la Vida," though lacking some of the depth of Kapsner's work, demonstrate a good hand and a keen eye. Crum also has a one-person exhibition on view in the Watkins Gallery at Queens College that's well worth seeing.

If you've never contemplated the odd, spellbinding paintings by Charlotte original Danny Malboeuf, now's your chance to catch up. An uneasy feeling mixed with awe at the artist's painterly skill is not unusual with these acrylics. "Holy Water" and "Consecration of St. Joan" both deliver a biting admixture of religion and sexuality.

Among other works in Queen's Gallery's current show are an attractive pair of watercolors by Terry Thirion, and several skilled pen, ink and watercolor sketches by Warren Burgess of Charlotte neighborhoods combined with charming renditions of Fontainbleau and other French neighborhoods where he lived as a child. These works are priced to buy!

Charlotte is better known as a city that collects realistic art, and current shows in the NoDa District present more work in this vein along with pieces that valiantly uphold the banner of artistic abstraction.

Center of the Earth Gallery presents The New Realism: 4th Annual Realism Invitational, a national survey of the "variety and splendor of this genre" that highlights some fine contemporary realist painters.

As the gallery notes explain, "...flawless painted surfaces and skillful handling of perspective and masterful light sources (combined with) mysterious and curious subject matter eliminate the idea of simply duplicating nature as an end in itself."

One small and exquisite piece, "Cove," oil on board by Joseph Hronek, illustrates this premise beautifully. This artist's paintings have been described as "slicing into the heart of the depicted world with detailed yet abbreviated glimpses of places and things."

Other noteworthy works in this excellent show include Robert Azank's brighter than bright still lives, delineated with "minimalist precision and keyed up color." Dynamic color is also salient to Anthony Schepis' oil on linen "Within and Without II," in which a brilliant purple object seems ready to emerge from a cardboard box on a table. The work of Schepis possesses surreal overtones of Magritte and De Chirico, especially when his simple architectural objects "are activated by an otherworldly sense of light."

This is a sharp show, and during Gallery Crawl last Friday night, I kept hearing visitors saying, "Cool" as they gawked at the vivid paintings on display at Center of the Earth.

Next door at The Blue Pony Gallery, the realm of abstract art is well represented by the work of printmaker Francisco Gonzales, who's learned part of his trade under the guidance of Mary Lou Sussman. Gonzales' small but color-packed show of linocuts and monotypes, The Unconditional Process of Inking, features a suite of nine new prints. The three strongest, "Passages," "Where Dreams Meet" and "Tale of Hope," are all linocuts, all verticals, all with full palette. Without being a collage, "Where Dreams Meet" has a stacked and overlapping, collage-like composition, and Gonzales employs a full palette of color: rust, ochre, several blues, a brick red. This linocut creates a fanciful abstract space inhabited by figural annotations, landscape elements and floating objects. Some of the calligraphic marks indicate an interest in the design of ancient Mexico. The color is bright yet tender, and the artist's experimentations in creating textures adds interest.

Also showing at The Blue Pony, Jan Kinslow's contemplative landscape-oriented pieces are calming. Several hover in the ambiguous space between representation and abstraction, slipping cleverly between genres.

Gonzales' and Kinslow's work will be up through April 27. Sussman's own work, always full of vitality, is also on view. The Blue Pony Gallery and Press is located at 3202A North Davidson Street. Phone 704-334-9390 for more info.

Center of the Earth Gallery is located at 3204 North Davidson Street. Call Susan Dyson Jones for more info: 704 375-5756. Also check out www.centeroftheearth.com.

Queen's Gallery is located at 1212 The Plaza behind Harris-Teeter. Call Linda Ostrow at 704-372-2993 for more information. *

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