Barry Gealt: One Day
Through March 29
Spencer, Ind., artist Barry Gealt, whose exhibition One Day is on view at Ruschman Gallery, paints from the academic tradition. Having taught for many years at Indiana University-Bloomington, Gealt is familiar with the language of surfaces, composition and paint, preferring a thick impasto to subtle brushstrokes. Gealt’s paint is so thickly applied it’s as if his landscapes emerge from their surfaces rather than rest upon them.
This is physical painting at its best: I imagined the artist in his studio, not so much painting as pulling paint across a surface as an act of creation. “Morning Fog I, Shiloh Valley, Owen County” (oil on panel) is among the subtler of Gealt’s works: Standing back, one takes in a lyrical abstraction of a hill and a sweeping sky, each moving into the other as a sort of embrace. These two simple primary elements give this painting its deceptive simplicity. But step closer and more is at play: The salmon pink sky is realized through layers, with white cloud flumes bridging air to ground. A bank of trees is suggested by a mere scraping of green paint.
Gealt also works with stucco to create an armature for his thick paint. These are truly sculptural depictions of water moving across rocks, almost garish, magnificent depictions of nature erupting from the frames.
While Gealt’s work comprises one-half of the Ruschman Gallery, the work of a handful of his current and former students is on view in the adjoining space. As far as solo shows go, Gealt’s landscapes stand alone as a strong showing. Taken in tandem with the student work, one is privy to a unique dialogue between teacher and student. None of these painters are Gealt wannabes: Each has a confident, highly realized aesthetic that suggests the strength of Gealt’s teaching — which is to bring out an artist’s unique voice while engendering the technical skills to carry it off.
The student work gives Gealt’s paintings a unique context. On the whole, this is one of the strongest exhibitions I’ve viewed at Ruschman this season.
One Day, new works by Barry Gealt, on view with the work of students and former students Victoria Barnes, Matthew Ballou, Matthew Choberka, Jennifer Meanley and Eva Speer Warwick, is on view through March 29 at Ruschman Art Gallery, 948 N. Alabama St. Call 317-634-3114 or visit www.ruschmangallery.com for hours and information.