Windows and doorways and the views they frame have been recurring subjects of Lois Dodd's paintings throughout her nearly 70-year career as an artist. In 2003, New York's Alexandre Gallery, which represents Dodd, offered the first exhibition on that aspect of her work. Now, Swarthmore College's List Gallery has homed in on an even more specific Dodd predilection with
"Lois Dodd: Windows and Reflections
," organized by List Gallery director Andrea Packard.
Born in Montclair, N.J., in 1927, Dodd studied painting at the Cooper Union, eventually forging a singular style that combined the painterly brushwork of abstract expressionism and the crispness of pop art. The paintings gathered in this exhibition date from 1967 to 2008; most are window views or reflections of views in windows as seen from her East Village loft, from her weekend home in Blairstown, N.J., near the Delaware Water Gap, and from her house in Cushing, Maine.
The window, if you didn't already realize it before seeing this show, is very much like a painting. It frames views - isolating parts of them in a single pane, or dividing them into a grid. As a unifying principle for this show, it automatically highlights the most alluring aspect of Dodd's work: her ability to transform otherwise mundane scenes into images of mystery and longing while mostly sticking to the facts.
At first glance, for example, Upstairs Window, painted in 1968, depicts nothing more than a window as seen from the exterior of a house. Then you notice the obvious cross formed by the intersecting mullion bars, the shadows on the pale pink curtains, and the way those curtains frame a dark sepia interior. Something so seemingly plain has become religious, erotic, and possibly sinister. The painting also brings to mind the distant windows of buildings in Edward Hopper's paintings - if you were to see just one of them close up, that is.
Some other artists show up in Dodd's paintings, like old friends passing through. The curious shape of the pond and the ice sheet in Ice Sheet, Blair Pond seems a nod to Milton Avery, and the ecstatically rendered reflection of the sun on that same pond in Winter Sunset, Blair Pond, to Charles Burchfield.
And why shouldn't they? Dodd's paintings remain resolutely hers.
Through Dec. 15 at List Gallery, Swarthmore College, 500 College Ave., Swarthmore.
Hours: Noon to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday.
Information: 610-328-7811 or www.swarthmore.edu/list-gallery.
History of Market Street
When Trinidadian Canadian artist Curtis Talwst Santiago first visited Lord Ludd, a gallery on the top floor of a 19th-century warehouse building on Market Street, he surveyed the northern view of Old City and decided to make the history of Market Street his next artistic inquiry.
His first show with the gallery, "Market Value," curated by Jared Quinton, comprises a series of tiny poignant dioramas in found ring boxes that capture imaginary moments on Market Street and other parts of the city, from precolonial times to the present.
Nanganesey Creek with Deer is a microscopic landscape scene set next to what is now Mill Creek, of a deer in a wilderness then occupied only by the Lenape Indians. Lenape Wigwam is a mini-wigwam made from debris Santiago found on Market Street; 1663 John Eliot's Algonquin (Native American Bible) features a bible so minute you may need a magnifying glass. And Homeless Nubian Man Sleeping on Park Bench Under the Stars is a contemporary take on Market.
Through Dec. 18 (gallery closed Nov. 29-Dec. 6) at Lord Ludd, 306 Market St., Fifth Floor. Hours: Noon to 5 p.m. Friday and Saturday and by appointment. Information: 814-808-5833 or www.lordludd.com.
Exploring color, shape
Philadelphia conceptual artist team Kocot and Hatton (Marcia Kocot and Tom Hatton) have worked on paintings exploring color and shape since 2008. Their current show at Larry Becker Contemporary Art offers examples.
Here are square, entirely blue paintings, from The Color of Blue, homages to Kazimir Malevich's square suprematist compositions and Yves Klein's affection for blue, and shaped monochromatic paintings from their "Axis" series, exploring the impact of shape on a color's hue and force. The team's investigations in the latter series seem completely borne out. Orange does appear to "spread wide," as Kocot and Hatton learned, red "stretches vertically," blue "slides calmly from side to side," and violet is "more compact."
The same goes for the works from their recent "Blueprint" painting studies and works assembled from pieces of torn paper, which the artists begin in a half-awake hypnopompic state that has been part of their practice for years.
I'm still pondering their new "Axis + Blue" paintings of brushy, indeterminate ultramarine blue forms painted on raw linen stretched over rhomboid-shaped canvases. I think I understand the artists' impetus - to see how the blue paint behaved while saturating raw linen in a canvas' center of gravity - but the contrasts of awkwardness between the soft, unformed painted shape and the rhomboid support are, to me, a visual conundrum.
Through Dec. 3 at Larry Becker Contemporary Art, 43 N. Second St. Hours: 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday and Saturday and by appointment. Information: 215-925-5389 or www.artnet.com/galleries/larry-becker-contemporary-art.