It’s all about the paint

// Two master painters exhibit at TCC

June 25 saw the opening of a new, two-man show at the Gallery at Tacoma Community College called “Alain Clerc and David J. Roholt – Painting.” Put the emphasis on painting. These two know how to paint. Both are local artists: Clerc lives in Gig Harbor and Roholt is located in Lakewood. The pair was able to assemble the show on relatively short notice when the previously scheduled artist fell off the map. The result is one of the best art shows to roll through town all year. There is so much work and the two painters are so good at what they do that this is a show with real heft. The whole gallery is filled with sumptuous, rich, lush paintings. The colors, textures and range of subject matter make this show a veritable feast for the eyes.

The work of each of the two artists is so distinctive that it is hard to mistake one from the other despite that their paintings are hung in a mixed arrangement. Clerc, originally from France, works primarily in acrylics. His paintings are flat, his paint handling is brushy – one color is lightly laid over another in such a way as to make the paintings seem to radiate an inner glow. His subjects are pared down to essential, hard-edged shapes. His surfaces really sing.

Roholt, originally from Salt Lake City, teaches painting at Pierce College in Lakewood. Working primarily in oil, he likes his paints heavy and he lets it keep the texture of spontaneous strokes. His painting sometimes reads like big slabs of cake icing, so deliciously thick is his paint. His colors are rich – ranging from moody, almost murky tones, to brilliant, fauve-like heights. The show also includes several examples of Roholt’s print work.

Both painters work in series. Among Roholt’s landscapes is “Collins Twister” in which a row of trees is depicted with such gestural freedom of color that the painting is almost totally abstract (it hearkens to some of Mondrian’s deconstructions of trees). The tree trunks and limbs are fat, curved lines. The area under the trees is an awesome pileup of shorter, brilliant strokes.

No stranger to plein air painting (painting in the great outdoors), Roholt works like an impressionist except that he slaps on thick dashes and dollops of paint instead of using the multitude of tiny brush strokes that is characteristic of standard impressionism.

Roholt’s series of swimmers receive a similar treatment. With quick and confident brushwork, the painter captures the colors and suggests the forms of swimmers in their garish bathing suits and swimming caps. Colorful floats break up the aquatic colors of the swimming pool.

Roholt presents a number of still lifes such as “Trader Joe Flowers,” which are easier to read than his swimmers but which still seem like thick, fauvist works.

Clerc, on the other hand, deploys the standard cubist device of multiple perspectives in his still lifes. In tabletop arrangements such as “Table With Plant,” the square tabletop is shown as if the viewer is looking directly from above. Bottles and the titular plant, however, are shown in profile. Plates are round disks and tumblers are mere rectangles of color.

Clerc’s “Evening Swim” contrasts radically with Roholt’s swimming pools. Here, a figure in a moonlit swimming pool is pared down to a configuration of pink, blue and white shapes. The surrounding black of the night mergers with the dark appendage of the diving board, which thrusts into the oval of the swimming pool. The moon above is a silvery white disk in an upper corner.

It is good to see two dedicated painters steeped in the magical potentials of their medium. These are painters with a real-deal-zeal for the painting of paintings. Anyone interested in the bewitching powers of paint should come to TCC’s art gallery and see this show.

“Alain Clerc and David J. Roholt – Painting” runs through Aug. 16. A reception for the artists will be held July 11 from 4-7 p.m. For further information visit http://www.tacomacc.edu/thegallery or call (253) 460-4306.

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