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Review: Spend time with Appleby's works

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Oct. 8, 2009 - In reproductions, Anne Appleby's art looks deceptively simple: geometric fields of pure color, arranged in pairs or threes or fours. They're usually referred to as monochromes, which invite association with modernist hard-edge painters and minimalist artists.

Viewing Appleby's works firsthand, however, reveals their true nature. The eight works now on view at Schmidt Contemporary Art perfectly demonstrate the rich complexity of Appleby's paintings and prints. The show includes five printed reliefs on handmade paper that Appleby made in 2008 at St. Louis' Wildwood Press.

While Appleby's color choices all derive from nature, the colors themselves behave differently depending on the medium. In the paintings, subtle brushstrokes are barely noticeable, adding to the pulsating quality of the color fields, which are anything but monochrome: highlights and lowlights and variations in shade reveal themselves gradually the longer you stare at them.

The prints are another matter altogether. The textures and feathery edges of the handmade paper make for gentle variations in color. Some of the paper panels are layered, so that alternate colors peek around the edges of the works.

But whether she works in prints or paintings, Appleby's works are anything but monochrome. They're effulgent, and they simply won't sit still, their colors gently pulsating within their fields, shifting their intensity depending on ambient light and how they are situated within a room.

Be forewarned: full appreciation of Appleby's art requires close looking and a bit of time, but the visual rewards are immeasurable.

Ivy Cooper is a professor of art at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville.