The Space Between is a phrase most closely associated today with a Dave Matthews Band greatest hit. Yet, historically speaking, it has ties to impressionism and cubism in grander scope. On a local level, New Elements Gallery is showcasing a new exhibit of the same name through September 21st.
“The Space Between” features the abstract, cubist figures of Warren Dennis and the impressionistic landscapes of Priscilla Whitlock. In art’s historical terms, Whitlock’s work references that of the French impressionists in the 19th century. Dennis’ cubist figures draws a direct comparison with the early 20th century work of Picasso. Although at one point in the early 1900s, some of the impressionists were still working, Picasso’s career had just begun. But the real impact of these artists came from their radical departure from established conventions: the impressionists from 500 years of artistic tradition and Picasso from the impressionists. The space between their beginnings as art movements is a couple of decades, but their impact has made them stand out from other artists of their generation.
In displaying Whitlock and Dennis together, this show creates a dialogue between two drastically divergent artistic styles in a contemporary manner. Although visibly different in practice and methodology, impressionism and cubism both radically broke tradition and established new styles reflective of the era.
Warren Dennis was born in Mississippi and has been teaching art since 1955. He moved to Boone, NC, in the ‘50s where he taught art and served as the Chairperson for Appalachian State’s Department of Art from 1980 to 1984. A very well-respected and well-known artist, Dennis has had many solo and group shows, as well as has been the recipient of many prizes and awards.
His work, though distorted and abstract, focuses on the human image Dennis states, “These figures and faces result from years of effort—a careful honing, by trial and error, to gain a specific effect. By now, these people are all mine.”
His figures often confront the viewer, forcing one to engage. His interest in the way society connects remains apparent. “My concerns are with showing dignity, humor and innocence as they affect us, and with robust, absurd gestures we make to revel ourselves,” he says. “With our backs to each other or face-to-face, we show and try to hide our feelings.”
“Magic” by Dennis features a magician pulling a rabbit out of a hat. A common scene, Dennis uses contrasting colors to make the magician pop, and despite the flatness of the figure, there is a sense of motion. As a viewer it feels like sitting on the front row to watch the magic show unfold. Dennis’ understanding and interest in human interaction gives it dynamic action and emotion.
“I would like for these paintings to go beyond the image to involve the viewer in a pure way,” Dennis reveals. “Even though the figures are distorted, I hope the public is confronted by these people as if they were real. This sense of dramatic presence is what I always work toward.”
Dennis’ show companion, Priscilla Whitlock, involves herself in a variety of group and solo exhibitions across the U.S. She has been an artist-in-residence at Cape Hatteras National Seashore in Maine, as well as in Brittany, France. She has taught painting in Virginia and is an associate artist at McGuffey Art Center in Charlottesville, Virginia. Her impressionist landscapes feel incredibly alive, too, as her use of light and quick brushstrokes accurately capture a moment in nature.
“Marsh Light” exemplifies Whitlock’s mastery of illumination and motion. The water ripples, the grass rustles and theflowers gently flutter in the wind. She is able to capture the essence of a moment in time and make it seem palpably real.
“I love painting outdoors, enjoying all the different seasons,” she says. “I begin with small studies in oil color, by direct observation. Larger pieces can be started on site and moved to the studio. As the scale changes, the subject matter is more about the physicality and energy of the paint less about the landscape as scenery.”
Whitlock challenges interpretations of landscape portraiture. She works in “painted marks, shapes and color, but arrives [at a completed piece] through the experience of standing in the field, marsh or wood.”
The Space Between will be on display until September 21st at New Elements Gallery, 201 Princess Street. The gallery is open Tuesday through Saturday, from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. More information can be found at newelementsgallery.com.
The Space Between
Featuring Warren Dennis and Priscilla Whitlock
On display through Sept. 21st
New Elements Gallery
201 Princess Street