April 7 is opening day for C. Law Watkins’s education exhibition, Emotional Design in Painting. 72 works are shown, grouped under 28 motifs and design concepts. Watkins, associate director of the gallery and director of the art school, hangs old masters on loan from museums nationwide alongside contemporary works in a didactic sequence, exploring the expressive function of diagonals, organic forms, motion, and shape.
In Valerie Hellstein’s spotlight talk yesterday, about her installation of abstract expressionist works, she moved us past familiar thoughts about the actions of the artist (think Jackson Pollock dancing over his canvases) toward a focus on the actions of the viewer. Action painting requires action on the part of the viewer to really experience the work, she explained. We attend to the colors. We think about the depth of the paint and the forms on the canvas. Active looking is required to do more than just pass by the work with a glancing notice. And through our active looking, we become aware of our moment and our place in that moment, standing before the painting.