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Review: Visual effects at Bruno David - delight for eyes and mind

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Feb. 18, 2013 - Kelley Johnson’s corpus of New Paintings at Bruno David Gallery in the Grand Center arts district will make you look twice. But if you do not spend some time up close, examining what you see, you will not actually see what is there.

In places the canvas appears to ripple. There are tears, gashes, bulges and depressions; all completely convincing when seen from a few feet of distance. To find the underlying processes is to uncover a portmanteau of precisely constructed visual effects.

Johnson’s work could be placed in the category of Op art in that he uses flat surfaces to produce strong optical effects when the spectator changes viewing positions. His work could also be called Lumia or kenetic art, in which motion and changes in color occur over time.

Johnson’s experimental techniques allow for alternating reads of the same image. Memory of Hair Metal appears to allow entry to another dimension that radiates patterns of bright colored light. As in many of Johnson’s paintings, the eye is convinced that tape is part of the work, rendering it a mixed media production. But the illusion of asymmetrically applied tape is an artistic trick and comes from an arrangement of overlapping that create foreground, middle ground, background on a minimalist, abstracted - but entirely acrylic paint - surface.

The paintings play on psychophysical perceptions of hue, saturation and brightness, as well as our interpretation of gloss and texture. Light appears to emerge from beneath the surface. Dark shadows and contrasts between distinct, flat strips over hazy pigments create great internal spaces.

The deceptive impressions that can be attained with direct lighting are shown to great effect in the bright white light of the Bruno David gallery rooms. From an aesthetic point of view, Johnson’s paintings are pleasing as well. The possibility for discovery and exploration abounds in this work, but time is of the essence as the exhibit closes in less than a week.

Sarah Hermes Griesbach is a freelance writer.