IT'S BACK: FOLK ART AT LAYTON GALLERIES
"Contemporary Folk Expressions XIV" brings back the annual collaboration of Tampa gallery owner Cathy Clayton and Georgia gallery owner Jeanne Kronsnoble, who splits her time between there and Tampa with her husband, the very fine painter Jeffrey Kronsnoble. Their partnership is always a welcome event. Before the show, the two friends roam the Southeast to visit returning artists and meet new ones whose work will populate Clayton's gallery walls. The result is a rich exploration of the folk art genre.
The term is used in varying ways, but for the purposes of this show, consider it works by self-taught artists. The assumption is that they received no formal training and had limited, if any, exposure to traditional art. Their creative development is guided by their surroundings, experiences and inner lives. Their materials are what's at hand. That's a simplistic definition because the artists, like all humans, are each unique.
Some of these artists are well-known and successful, so we'd be naive to think they are not aware of the wider art world. A good example is the late Purvis Young, who is the featured artist. He grew up in poverty in Miami, didn't attend high school and served a prison sentence for breaking and entering while a teen. In prison he studied art books and began drawing when he was released. Young saw photos of murals in other cities and began painting one in a Miami neighborhood. It became a tourist destination, people began asking to buy his paintings, the art world "discovered" him, and a major collector purchased the contents of his studio, about 3,000 works. His themes evolved as he became more aware of history and current events but he hewed to his expressive stylized figurations and rough, mixed media materials. He died in 2010 at 67. Unlike many of the works you'll see by the 30 or so other artists, his can be deep and dark.
Clayton Galleries, 4105 S MacDill Ave., Tampa, is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Free. The public is invited to a free opening reception Friday from 7 to 9 p.m. The show continues through April 30. claytongalleries.net. (813) 831-3753.
AT ALLYN GALLUP: LESLIE LERNER REMEMBERED
Who could forget his work? Leslie Lerner’s paintings have remained in my mind since I first saw one more than a decade ago. For me, they represent everything that's right about good art: It acknowledges the long line from whence it is born yet brings something fresh to that lineage.
Lerner, who died in 2005 at 55, was also a gifted sculptor, ceramicist and printmaker, but most of us knew his paintings best and a group is on view at Allyn Gallup Contemporary Art. They are sumptuously worked, and so luminous in some instances that I can't believe they are acrylic and not oil. They invoke past artists — he was sometimes compared to Watteau, and there is certainly an influence in some landscapes — but he goes back further to older masters. I always think of Goya's magnificent forlornness. And while we see the past in Lerner's work technically, we see something fresh and relevant in its narratives. They are mysterious moments from stories we'll never fully know. A boy or armless man wander strange landscapes that seem to come from dreams — real yet not. Lerner's paintings are joined by works from colleague Vicky Randall; one of his students at the Ringling College of Art and Design, Amer Kobaslija; and his daughter, Natalie Pilar Lerner. The show, curated by Mark Ormand, continues through March 31.
Allyn Gallup Contemporary Art, 1288 N Palm Ave., Sarasota is open Tuesday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Free. allyngallup.com.
ART CENTER SARASOTA: four NEW SHOWS
Now in its 90th year, the center continues to organize events, classes and shows, with four new ones opening today . They are: one from the Petticoat Painters, formed in 1953 when the art world was a boys' club; drawings by Kevin Costello; a collaboration with Goodwill Manasota in which 27 artists choose something from one store and repurposed it into art; and an anyone-could-enter show. A free reception is today from 5 to 8 p.m. The Sarasota Art Center, 707 N Tamiami Trail, is open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Free. artsaraota.org. (941) 365-2032.