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Parker explores order in chaos

Multilayered, nuanced paintings a ‘litmus test’ for viewers

An average shopper looks at cereal stacked in a grocery store and sees an army of identical Captain Crunch boxes. Greg Parker looks at that same stack and recognizes universal familiarity.

The pedestrian considers a high rise and sees a beautiful building; Parker sees its mathematical dynamics.

Within these “dimensional issues” of imposed geometry lies the secret of Parker’s paintings on display at Richard Levy Gallery.

Rooted firmly in modernist abstraction, this series of 10 untitled works is designed to initially confront the observer with a comfortable notion of order, only to subsequently challenge the very idea through continued inspection.

Parker uses smoothed and polished gesso panels as canvas for these geometric excursions. Each work was then created via a series of anywhere from six to 40 painted layers. Parker said any given layer is independent yet related to the entire piece.

The result is remarkable. Upon first contact with, say, the work designated “untitled 2001.204,” the viewer instantly notes the precision of strict geometry and the calm interplay of light brown tones. Beyond the barrier of the familiar lines, however, ghostly cloud-like formations of a deeper shade emanate.

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At 48 inches by 36 inches by 2.25 inches — the third dimension is necessary to each piece — the seemingly huge “untitled 2001.402” makes a nice centerpiece for the show. In this work, a light sepia-toned variance flows behind static vertical bars of brown tones, which in turn are held at bay, by thinner horizontal bars at the forefront.

Conflict and harmony are apparent here in the inference of its layers and this work in particular might make a handy litmus test for the gallery attendee: Is the painting straining to hold its energy back or does the power of the piece come from elemental interplay?

Or check out untitled “2001.158.” Can’t remember the title? No problem — this is the sole piece not dominated by calming earth tones, made vibrant instead with pinks and whites. Playful circles of black and ghostly orbs of faint green peek out behind vertical and horizontal bars that begin and end with all the certainty of optical illusion.

The effect of these works is revelation. Call it disillusioning illusion, it’s the revelation of chaos lurking within the most ordered of systems — of the undying influence of the organic on which the mechanical is often imposed.

The Portland, Maine-based Parker must be pleased that these calming and perplexing works have found their way to comfortable confines of Levy Gallery, as each piece is given ample space to work its maximum effect.

These works are “an invitation to challenge the complacency we often have about who we are and what we are a part of,” Parker said. If the average observer isn’t careful, Parker may just have his way. And a carefully arranged display at Smith’s may never look quite the same.

Greg Parker’s exhibit will run through Sept. 15 at the Richard Levy Gallery, 514 Central Ave. SW. For more information and gallery hours, call 766-9888.


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