There is a multitude of ways to exhibit art, and sometimes the most traditional methods are the most satisfying. The exhibition of veteran painters Marcia Goldenstein and Thomas Riesing, now on view at the Christel DeHaan Fine Arts Center at the University of Indianapolis, suggests that context can make already satisfying artwork even more satisfying to look at when it’s given its curatorial due. -Work by Marcia Goldenstein is on view at the Christel DeHaan Fine Arts Center.- The U of I gallery space is contained and yet generous: The large room with a high ceiling that slopes upward into a skylight on one end affords lots of light and lots of wall space to the work hanging there. I was particularly struck by the success of this exhibition — its beauty as a total experience and the loveliness of the individual works of art — even while some pieces appealed to my own senses and individual preferences more than others. The solid, expert execution of the work, along with each artist’s creative spin, contribute to the exhibition’s success; in other words, the quality has to be there to begin with — fancy packaging can’t make up for lack of content.
Speaking of packaging, Goldenstein and Riesing are a married couple who have taught painting and drawing at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville since the mid-1970s. They also conduct classes and workshops in other settings around the country (which, of course, is what connected them to U of I). Clearly, they practice what they must preach: a solid building up of image through layers of color, the interplay of light, an honoring of the laws of the horizon line.
Goldenstein reveals a versatility in both her restful landscapes with sweeping expanses of sky and clouds, impeccably done with well-conceived colors, and her more iconographic images that combine realistically rendered flowers, architectural “pieces” (such as a floating cornice, say) and bits of landscape. These are more surreal, but just as well wrought. Her series of 5-inch-by-7-inch paintings is worth extended contemplation; small images are packed with richness, in color and tone as well as metaphor. An impeccable rose, for example, stands tall against a streetlamp in “Adam’s Rose.”
Riesing, on the other hand — at least in this exhibition — stays focused on the landscape; and yet his approach is less refined, while his landscapes are also laden with sky and clouds. “Sichuan Sunset,” a three-painting depiction of smog-filled sky, reveals bright blue beneath the grey by the third painting, as if this were a moving picture. Paintings, such as these, are of a more ragged, edgy realism. This, too, is compelling in its way, and is as authentic as Goldenstein’s interpretive realism. Landscape paintings can often appear static.
But the paintings of both Goldenstein and Riesing have an immediacy that brings them to life. There’s a flow here, a suggestion of movement, perhaps reflective of the fact that the artists like to paint in real time and place, often while traveling, even though different paintings result. Context, then, has more than one layer of meaning.
The paintings of Marcia Goldenstein and Thomas Riesing are on view through Feb. 7 at the Christel DeHaan Fine Art Gallery at the University of Indianapolis. Hours are 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., Monday through Friday. Call 788-3253 for more information.