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November 27th, 2013 RICHARD SPEER | Visual Arts
 

Lucinda Parker, All Clouds Choose the Loftiest Peak...

The many moods of Mount Hood.

visarts_4004CATCHMENT BY LUCINDA PARKER
I never bought into the cult of Lucinda Parker. Sure, the veteran painter is respected, she’s been in a jillion biennials, and there are more paintings by her in West Hills mansions than there are Sub-Zero refrigerators. But to my eye, her woodsy abstractions always seemed ploddingly composed, mannered and incohesive. In fact, I had never laid eyes on a Parker painting I actually liked until I walked into All Clouds Choose the Loftiest Peak to Pile Themselves Upon, her new show at Laura Russo Gallery. So virtuosic is this body of work, so self-assured, so goddamned heartbreaking in its sheer lyricism, I’ve been stunned into septic critical shock.

The show consists almost entirely of paintings of Mount Hood, shown from different angles and in different weather conditions. Parker’s technique has always been grandiloquent—flashy gestures and sweeping brushstrokes loaded with gobs of acrylic paint—but for once, her melodramatic approach matches the majesty of her subject matter. In arcing wedges troweled on with wide palette knives, she renders glaciers, rocks and clouds in jaunty rhythms that lilt and lift and swing, a little bit Mozart, a little bit Ella Fitzgerald. In the showstopping Catchment, concentric half-circles crown the peak, backlit by sunlight, moonlight or some unnamed transcendentalist aura that shimmers on the waves of the lake below. It’s a sky mystical enough to warrant comparison to the one van Gogh painted in Starry Night. Another piece, From Owl Point, gives over the canvas’ top three-quarters to sunshine and clouds, reminding us that even the state’s tallest mountain is dwarfed by the firmament above.

Although Parker captures the mountain’s serenity, she never depicts it as static. In jittery slashes and stabs, she communicates the danger of a volcano that has killed legions of climbers and spawned rockslides, avalanches, earthquakes and, about 200 years ago, a major eruption. The artist fears and reveres this place, whose brute physicality jolts her style out of the preciousness that dogs her purely abstract works. The new paintings embody a power commensurate with art’s highest capacity: to communicate ecstatic experience. You owe it to yourself to see this astonishing, ennobling ravishment of a show.


SEE IT: All Clouds Choose the Loftiest Peak to Pile Themselves Upon is at Laura Russo Gallery, 805 NW 21st Ave., 226-2754. Through Nov. 30.

 
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