The wonder of Brian Dickerson's recent rugged 3-D paintings on wood in his solo "Constructed Paintings and Drawings from Ballinglen" at Seraphin Gallery is the immediate sense of quiet and mystery they impart. While he was, of course, informed by the remote, artist-friendly locale in northwest County Mayo, Ireland, which he expects to visit again next fall, Dickerson's original inspiration was the excavation of an Owasco Indian settlement he watched at age 13 near his childhood home in upstate New York - the colors of the layered soil, the wooden grids, the hidden artifacts.
This Philadelphia painter favors dank, all-over earthen incrustations in the many sculptural works here, some of them with their scratched, picked-at surfaces. Such slowly made painted pieces are often divided vertically into two unequal registers, each filled out with recessed compartments. Some are commanding, both in size and in refusal of easy solutions, and possess a resolute strength. There's a certain amount of painterly expressionism in such work, often including a small zone of bright color. But Dickerson's work tends to be largely monochromatic.
A painter's drawings often bring us closer to the artist, especially if his drawings simply record more personal preoccupations. And that's what Dickerson's individualistic graphite drawings, not directly related to his painted pieces, achieve. A handsome show.
Nikolay Milushev remembers growing up in communist Bulgaria constantly surrounded by propaganda posters picturing a soldier's face with the slogan "Repel the West." He was always astonished at the power such images seemed to have over people's minds. That vivid recollection lingers even at the current painting and drawing solo at Cerulean by Milushev, 34, living in the U.S. since 2001. Yet the Philadelphia artist's featured subjects are chiefly drawn from today, occasionally with some sour nectar in the work, courtesy of the economic crash, oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, or how we treat our planet and the people on it. Actually an odd mixture of refined elegance and rigorous construction is what gives Milushev's work its edge. Drawing, especially the rough stuff with all kinds of mark-making on it, has plenty of appeal today. For Milushev, too, there's enough that's personal and intimate about his vigorous drawings so that his coolly destructive rage does get neutralized somewhat by that.
Ray Leight (1931-2011), born in West Point, Montgomery County, was an illustrator for Ford Motor Co. and later owned Fritzel Toy Co., where he created prototypes for new toys, something he loved to do. Meanwhile, he exhibited his art at both the Allentown Art Museum and the Whitney Museum of American Art. Featured at Gratz now are his acrylic paintings on paper in the show "Shadowless by Ray Leight." An abstract clarity defines his work. These are ambitious exercises in reconciling geometry and gesture, adequately realized. Much of what he focuses on are wedges of bright, flat colors encased in bold black outline, almost as if he were working in leaded stained glass. Leight's preference for playful imaginary shapes, at times possibly referring to a human figure or animal, seem to belong more to the realm of pure style than mere technique.
"Out of the Attic History Exhibition" at Main Line celebrates the neighborhood art center's 75th anniversary with a two-part display balancing history with several categories of participation by artists showing early and recent work and others with engrossing stories to tell. Far from being a formula show, this is one of ideas taking form, moving, changing, yet retaining a personal vision. Within this, it's also seeking roots and universality, as some of these images, achievements, and bold initiatives for the future become almost ritual in their strength and presence. Plenty to see and hear on this grand occasion that also marks art center executive director Judy Herman's 25th year in the saddle.