If you’re prone to SAD (and who among us doesn’t get a little seasonally affected during a soggy Portland January?), then run, don’t walk, to Elizabeth Leach’s dream-team double bill of light sculptor Hap Tivey and painter Gregg Renfrow. Both artists were part of the Southern California Light and Space movement of the 1960s and ’70s, a movement born of the area’s mythic confluence of sea and sun (and perhaps smog): Think sunsets filtered through Malibu haze, vast blue horizons striated with orange and red. Both artists are indebted to the formalist tracts of minimalism and color-field painting—as well as, obliquely, to Impressionism—but in different ways. Tivey uses canvas, acrylic, and LED lights in works that have neonlike appeal, but with a cooler visual temperature. In the aurora borealislike Wavelength of Speech the artist suggests not only the amplitudes of sound waves, but also air and ocean currents, separating and flowing as their viscosities dictate. Sand Grain , with its circular form and breastlike shadow, grades downward from blue to green, while Galaxy Particles features a striking blue crescent moon, counterbalanced by a shadow bank on the work’s opposite side.
At Gregg Renfrow’s First Thursday opening, he explained the inspiration behind his polymer-and-pigment-on-cast-acrylic pieces: a kind of rapture he experienced while standing in front of Raphael’s Saint Catherine of Alexandria at the National Gallery in London. He says he was suffused with “pure pleasure in my body,” which he wanted to re-create in the chromatic ambience of his paintings. (Renfrow should get a MacArthur Grant for saying something so unabashedly, unfashionably hedonistic.) The artist succeeds in his goal, his matter-of-fact titles (Crimson and Carmine with White Center ; Green-Yellow-Green ; Maroon over Yellow ) encapsulating the works’ simultaneous vacuity and pregnancy. The visual equivalents of the music of Brian Eno, Renfrow’s and Tivey’s styles posit color as mood as meaning; meteorologic atmosphere as expressionist atmospherics. It is eye candy, wallpaper; it is groovy and shallow and trancy and blissfully nonconceptual, and if it doesn’t cure your SAD, you need a soul transplant.
SEE IT: Elizabeth Leach, 417 NW 9th Ave., 224-0521. Tivey closes March 1; Renfrow closes Feb. 2.