The Land Remains is Robert Dale Anderson's first painting exhibition since 1992. The UT Austin professor has spent the intervening years focusing on very small graphite drawings. Had I been more familiar with those drawings, I might not have spent my first few minutes with these new paintings, the largest of which is 14 x 18”, trying to figure out what peculiar corner of the American Southwest he was depicting. There was one atypical seascape in the lot, but most of the images showed landscapes strewn with rocky rubble and lit by a sun that barely penetrated the overhead haze. At times there were mountains in the background, and the color had been reduced to a range of blues and grays or yellows and browns.
I slowly realized that despite Anderson's meticulous attention to detail, these were purely imaginary locales. That's why he was able to suggest within the same picture a dessert at early dawn or possibly a shallow seabed. He brings a full battery of Impressionist techniques to the work, and the final product is Jules Verne illuminated by Claude Monet.
Cast rubber sculptures by Victoria Palermo in the project gallery also transport the viewer toa fanciful ocean floor. These are goofy and endearing constructions, made by dipping tupperware, cardboard boxes, but mostly balloons into repeated baths of liquid rubber. Everything comes in candy colors, both opaque and translucent, and most of the structures rise from the floor in a single column that varies from a few inches to over four feet in height. I hope that Palermo, who teaches at Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, New York, is getting good advice on how to insure the archival quality of her medium. They seem like they could become brittle with time, But for now, in the flush of their youth, they are smart, funny, and maybe a little sexy.
With all these imaginary landscapes on view, Lance Letscher's newest abstract collages suddenly seemed to convey a “sense of place” to me. Maybe in the sense that Gertrude Stein could refer to her abstract plays as “geography.” Letscher's dense layers of cut paper squares and rectangles, his fan shapes, and his more random arrangements of children's art, notebook pagess, and book jackets could be mapping specific psychic landscapes. And of course they are also impressive technical achievements. In this latest work, the colors are richer than they have ever been and the patterning is more complex. If they are landscapes, Letscher invites us to get lost in them.
These three exhibitions continue at Conduit Gallery through May 5.