What lies beneath


Mark Pack: unearthing

Wug Laku’s Studio & Garage

Through June 28

Wug Laku opened his Studio & Garage just over a year ago, a space in which Laku creates art and art furniture and shows his own and other artists’ work. Bypassing the vicissitudes of gallery representation, such an arrangement gives an artist the advantage of showing his or her work on their own terms — the downside, of course, not having the benefit of an established gallery’s marketing and client reach. In time, such a space can earn a reputation for showing consistent, quality work, as spaces such as Domont Studio Gallery has done.

Laku’s latest exhibition, unearthing, a solo show of work by local artist and Rhode Island School of Design graduate Mark Pack, is a further step in that direction. Pack’s work is unconventional in the best of ways: It suggests a high standard of both aesthetics and experimentation, and in doing so doesn’t alienate the viewer.

Entering Laku’s windowless space, located in the jovially colored Circle City Industrial Complex, I had the sense of descending into an underground hideout — or, at the very least, someone’s basement. Pack’s work, though, lends itself to such a space: It’s a metaphor for the layers of earth, a re-imagining of the ground from which life springs.

Pack lays down countless layers of acrylic paint and then carves into it as a sculptor would chisel a piece of stone. But dried acrylic is far more forgiving, and, therefore, more open to experimentation. What is revealed beneath the milky surfaces of Pack’s paintings are colorful strata that are reminiscent of butterfly wings, agates or the pebbly bottom of a creek bed.

“Flutterby” is suggestive of a mountain range or a topographical map, upon which winged creatures emerge from the mist. One wing is pulled away from the painting, its mirror image remains fixed so that it appears to be taking flight. Teal, amber, crimson, gold … these and other colors jump from the layers, like gem findings, or untethered spirits.

In other pieces, a block of layered paint is literally shaped through scoring, cutting and carving to reveal a rocklike creation — multicolored and endlessly fascinating, like peering into a kaleidoscope.

The removed sections become miniature works: One might resemble a butterfly wing, another a slip of shale. “Core samples” are just that: circular sections removed from a painting to reveal its many layers. I almost expected to find a trilobite or a fossilized leaf.

Pack’s philosophy is that art is grown rather than made, at least in his case. He allows the layers of paint to coalesce and suggest their own expression, and he becomes the vehicle for their revelation. It’s a dance, ultimately, between what emerges and what he adds, and the harmony created between them.

unearthing, works by Mark Pack, is on view through June 28 at Wug Laku’s Studio & Garage, 1125 Brookside Ave., C7, by appointment. Call 317-270-8258 or e-mail wuglaku@netzero.net.