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Joanne Kent: Recent Works
Gallery K
Washington DC
February 3-27, 1999
washington review
volume XXIV, number 6
april/may 1999
By: Rebecca Crumlish

In a surprising break from her earlier work, Joanne Kent's most recent paintings embrace color as a primary motif. Bold reds, yellows, and blues burst forth from the canvas with aggressive intensity. The sheer quantity of paint on the canvas goes beyond texture to become a sculptural element. The sensuality of oil paint worked with sticks and fingers into a thick confection raises these paintings from the minimalism of their monochromatic form. Both a progression and departure from Kent's previous palette of muted grays and browns, they boldly assert a monumental feel despite their relatively small size.

Kent's interest in ancient cultures and moments was reflected in her earlier work by a preoccupation with muted earth tones, reinforcing allusions to buried objects. The hand polished surface textures took on the look of time-worn ancient reliefs or rubbings. But, like the sight that greets the archaeologist who digs through the rubble of the ages to finally pry open the door to the tomb, Kent's show at Gallery K dazzles the eye with a richness of brilliant color. We see square paintings, each a primary color, yet not a one flat or dull. The strong presence of these paintings is partly the result of their unusual construction. Built up over a gently curved plywood base, layer upon layer of wax, plaster, and viscous oil paint was applied until they bulge with the paint engorged. The artist's love of the sensuality of the paint, itself, takes over. The touch of the human hand is evident in the jagged, pitted texture of the surface, roiling with a lustrous luscious sheen.

The intensity of the bold colors and the tactile qualities of the surface textures combine with energetic harmony to exhibit an uncompromising vision—an antidote, or perhaps a cure, for winter's doldrums.

Rebecca Crumlish is a freelance writer and curator in Washington, DC.