Review: Mary Lou Dooley Waller


4 stars

Through Nov. 27. Way back in 2008, I wrote a review of Mary Lou Dooley Waller's show at the Ruschman Gallery, back when there was still a Ruschman Gallery. The show's title was: In the Balance. And this is what I wrote: "Looking at abstract art is sometimes like looking up at the clouds: To you a particular cloud might look like an antelope, but to another it might look like a Volkswagen Beetle. Your own way of looking at the world matters in the appreciation of such work."

O.K. Can I say that I'm embarrassed? Because, of course, there is so much more to say about Waller's work. Just for starters, there's relationships between colors and forms and the problems she sets up — and tries to resolve — in her paintings and works on paper. She often uses the word "balancing" to describe her process, as if she sees her mind as a scale for her intuitive artistic decisions.

In "Red/Green" (oil on canvas) you see squares of pure red and green snuggling up to each other's edges against a backdrop of much muddier colors and then you see a red and green square at some remove in the bottom half of the painting. In between these two sets of squares, there's a swirling storm of red and green brush strokes....and some muddiness. It's as if these two complementary colors are going head to head, both making love and going to war with one another. If they mix it up too much, they annihilate one another and make a gray mess. As if to illustrate the danger, there's a swirling band of grayish white, like an eruption of volcanic ash, between the two sets of squares.

There are also collages here, "Positive/Negative Blue" and "Veering Right" where she recycles torn bits from previous works to intuitively create something new.  

These were something new for me, as I'd never seen her work in collage before.

In another painting, entitled "Surge," it's almost impossible for me not to read into it images and forms. Because the movement of blue color in the painting resembles a surge of water in a canyon beyond a black forms that vaguely resembles Chinese calligraphy.

There I go again with the cloud watching thing. Oh well. But, to be stimulated by this poetry of color and light, as it were, in such a way – can that really be such a bad thing?

Gallery 924, 924 N. Pennsylvania St.


Arts Editor

Dan Grossman is NUVO's arts editor.