Art Watch: Walker in solo and collaboration

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Brett Anderson Walker and Antonio Puri in front of a collaboration, photo by John Suplee
Orlando Orlando by Walker
Orlando Orlando by Walker

The buzz this week is all about local abstract figurative painter Brett Anderson Walker who has two explosive gallery shows opening this week in West Chester. Opening at The Chester County Art Association in their main Allinson Gallery, Brett has a large selection of his figurative paintings as well as sculptural works. This is a solo show that will be on exhibit September 8th through the 28th. The opening reception is September 8 from 5 to 8 p.m. In the Church Street Gallery at 12 South Church Street in downtown West Chester, Brett Anderson Walker and internationally renowned painter Antonio Puri show a collection of large collaborative paintings in "Shared Surfaces". The opening for this one-of-a-kind show is Friday September 9th from 5 to 9 p.m.

Brett Walker's signature paintings are immediately recognizable for their unusual use of vibrant color, bold gesture paint strokes, and strong, centrally placed human forms. Brett describes his own work as "abstract figurative painting, influenced by German Expressionists, Post-Impressionists and Fauves…" I always see a bit of Dutch American abstract expressionist Willem de Kooning in the bold gestures used to create a sense of figure and mood.

Detail of collaborative painting
Detail of collaborative painting

Often the way one reacts to art that has a strong signature style is to immediately try to place it in a history of something known. Brett has his own voice and his use of color is both shocking and beguiling. In his solo show at CCAA, Brett also includes multi-media sculptures of cement, wire and wood that he has been working on over the years.  He is particularly proud of his wood piece entitled "Ages", where the expressions on the wood carving changes with the light and shadows of the day. "A happy accident" he reveals.

I met with Brett Anderson Walker, Antonio Puri and artist John Suplee when they were setting up the Church Street show. John had just come from seeing the installation of Brett's big show at CCAA, and he said, "Picture every tube of paint that an artist has been dying to use, saying 'I wish I could do something with that color!!' But no one ever does, except that guy!" John points to Brett with a big grin.

"Shared Surfaces" is a group of 12 large square canvases that have been painted on equally, back and forth by artists Antonio Puri and Brett Walker. They have been collaborating on these large scale paintings for over five years.  The idea of working together started ten years ago in 2006 when the two artist friends, shared studios next to one another.  While each artist has a very different point of view, they each admired the other's work and hoped one day to work together on a series of paintings.

Brett laughed, "We flirted with the idea: what if we could do something together?!" It is rather unusual for well known artists with very distinct styles to work together in a truly collaborative way and still remain friends at the end of the experience. "We realized that we could do something together without our egos getting in the way," Brett explained. Antonio added, "Ideally, we want someone to walk into the gallery and say 'Wow!' who is this artist?!" Their work would be seen something entirely new that is neither one artist nor the other.

Antonio Puri has shown all over the world, and most locally at the Delaware Museum of Art and the Delaware Center for the Contemporary Arts. He paints with primarily a monochrome palette, with acrylic paint and added elements like beads and sand to create textural elements for his abstract constructions.

His large installation works involve merging multiple canvases to create a very large singular piece. This repetition of the same size canvas and same elements, reminds the viewer of the creative act and the evolution of the painting process. In large multiples, the elements seem to dance with one another.

He prefers working on Belgian linen because of its raw texture and appealing color and feel. With all of the movement and texture, hovering shapes of color and squiggly line imprints, one would think there should be a feeling of chaos, but instead there is a restrained feeling to his paintings. There is a tension between the controlled and uncontrolled, and it is quite mesmerizing. He is also showing some smaller solo works at Church Street Gallery in the backroom, and you can check out some of his larger installations on his website

In chatting about their collaboration, Antonio said "the most important thing is discovering new directions" and "to know who you are, you first have to detach from yourself." Painting in collaboration with fellow artist Brett Walker, both artists had to detach themselves from ownership of the canvas, while still letting their artistic selves explore, and speak. All of the collaboration pieces are large square canvases with some elements of Brett's brightly colored figures and colors, interwoven with the textures and monochrome and silver paint by Antonio. They went back and forth with each painting six times, Antonio first, then Brett, and so on, until somewhere near the end, Antonio creates a grid of squares all over the canvas and writes in numbers inside the squares. "The numbers are there for texture" explains Antonio.

At adjoining the Huston Gallery in The Chester County Art Association, Paul Downie, Executive Director of the Community Art Center in Wallingford, has juried a new group show entitled "It's all is the Details." The opening for this group show is also September 8th, 5 to 8 p.m., and will be shown through September 27th.

Millinery art hat by Milica, for Mushroom Festival Parade this weekend
Millinery art hat by Milica, for Mushroom Festival Parade this weekend

Farther afield, there are a number of other terrific new shows also opening this week. At The Station Gallery in Greenville Delaware, there is an artist reception for a new three artist group show: Frank DePietro, Marlene Dubin and Barbara Straussberg. Also in Delaware, near Trolley Square, The Blue Streak Gallery at 1721 Delaware Avenue has a one women show of artist Vicki Vinton "Marks and Movement under Pressure."  The opening for Vicki's show is September 9th 5 to 8 p.m., and the show runs through October.  Vicki is also currently showing her abstract paintings at the Somerville Manning Gallery in Greenville as well as at her new studio location in Oxford on Third Street.

If you happen to be in Kennett Square for the giant, wonderful Kennett Mushroom Festival, check out Mala Galleria's new show of large abstract vistas by artist Ellen Catanzaro. Also look for Mala Galleria's contribution to the Mushroom parade on Friday September 9th at 6 p.m.  Milica of The Hat Millinery, will be presenting her newest collection of uniquely beautiful, eye-popping, handmade hats. Watch the hat models walk in the Kennett Square's mushroom parade!

About Lele Galer

Lele Galer is an artist who has chaired numerous art shows, taught art history and studio art, public art and has chaired, written and taught the Art in Action Art Appreciation series for the UCFD schools for the past 12 years. She worked at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and wrote for the Associated Press in Rome. She has been dedicated to Art History and art education for most of her adult life. Lele and her husband Brad own Galer Estate Winery in Kennett Square.

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