Familiar Show Worth the Trip Print
Art - Reviews
Tuesday, 09 April 2002 18:00
Even though MidCoast Fine Arts hosted shows for Thomas Lytle in August and Bruce Walters in October, the current exhibition joining the two artists in the Quad City Arts Gallery is well worth the trip to the District of Rock Island.

I like Lytle’s works in this show very much, but I had an opposite reaction when his work was hung at the MidCoast Fine Arts Gallery in LeClaire. For one thing, there are more works, because Quad City Arts Gallery is better suited to show sculpture. Also, Quad City Arts actually plays the music created for the exhibit by Terry Skaggs and Sean Smith, while MidCoast omitted that portion of the experience. Perhaps my earlier reaction also stemmed from Lytle’s work being hung in tandem with that of a woman who was painting portraits of people from slides.

Lytle’s artist statement describes what he is striving for in his art: “My subject matter is predominately the human figure and is stylized and representative in nature with an occasional shift toward realism as well as semi-abstract studies. My greatest challenge is the application of heat and hammer to transform cold, hard steel into a fluid, moving form. I strive to ‘make the steel dance’ in all of my work, whether it is a 12-inch figure or a grouping of several life-sized forms. I accomplish this by developing a sensitive and strategic balance of positive and negative space that seems to almost interweave itself throughout the figures.”

A good example of the interweaving can be seen in his piece Unity, which shows a life-sized man and woman (from the waist up) in an embrace. He uses a Giacommetti-esque stippling of steel to form the texture of the skin after shaping the forms.

Another really flowing work is Evolution. In this piece, Lytle creates the illusion of a very graceful figure by using ribbons of steel. The sweep of the shape suggests a female form, but the face is a pre-historic skull.

While the flow of both Evolution and Unity shows a concern for their appearance from all angles of viewing, I was less enchanted by Lytle’s masks, which are supposed to be wall hangings with a front and back.

The major new work of Bruce Walters is Travelin’ v.1.2. It is exhibited in this show and on the Internet at (http://www.brucewalters.ws), although it is much better to view it in the Quad City Arts show because of its large scale: 2 feet high by 14 feet long. It is a very polished digital print that would look great in an office or hallway setting. The work is allegorical through the juxtaposition of images from the highway, and while I’m not sure where the journey is going, it does pass a McDonald’s along the way.

The fast-food joint seems to play an important role in this show for Walters, as two other major works include a McDonald’s theme: Five Young People and Mickey D’s & Blue Jeans. These digital prints incorporate a wash-like sepia tone with a few brightly colored areas that really jump out at the viewer. The wash-like areas look like a monochromatic watercolor painting. In the case of Five Young People, the print is also large, 2 feet high by 16 feet long.

Bruce Walters describes clearly the overall theme of his show: “In many ways, this exhibition centers on a single work, The Open Highway. This work is a patterning of images and words – fragments of passing scenes, recent events, lyrics, and random thoughts – that come to us as we travel.

“The rest of the exhibition contains images from this single piece – American flags, horses, a single chair and house, street signs – but they are used in different relationships and with different emphasis. Collectively, I attempted to depict different facets of travel – from introspective, metaphorical journeys to standing in line at McDonald’s. Adventure, discovery, renewal: Travel brings us new perspectives and excitement, but travel can also be fatiguing and repetitive.”

In tandem with Lytle’s work, Walters’ digital prints are anything but tiring. It is a good show by two accomplished artists whose work is very different: Walters draws heavily from the hustle and bustle of industrial life using computer technology, while Lytle uses the stuff of the industrial revolution – steel – to depict the organic origins of humans on the earth.

Click here for a full-color .pdf of Bruce Walters work.
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