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Layers Reveal Truths About Challenges And Beauty In RAC Show

Photo of David Dolak artwork
Provided by RAC

Rene Dimanche of the Regional Arts Commission has gathered three artists whose combined work makes manifest aspects of the human condition that are difficult to express. Dimanche writes that in their group exhibit, Irrevocable Fragments, artists Byron Darnell Rogers, David Dolak and Clayvon Ambrose Wesley “deal with the disintegration and re-integration of information we digest from places and people we come across in our lives.”

Byron Darnell Rogers uncovers life truths in his multimedia artwork. In his Obstacle I Rogers has painted a mother and son over clippings from stories about domestic abuse reported in St. Louis newspapers. The words “pain,” “abuse,” “poverty” and “neglect” are burnt into the wood panel. Separated from Obstacle I by more depictions of life’s trials, Obstacle II, provides a part two to the boy’s life. The result of a youth riled by poverty and abuse is characterized by the emblazoned words “unemployment” and “[lack of] education.” There is hope, along with frustration and outrage in Rogers’ oeuvre. He celebrates African-American community and achievement in his work as well, employing the vivid visual language of American Harlem Renaissance painters like Palmer Hayden and Archibald Motley.

“Disintegration and re-integration” is a perfect way to describe David Dolak’s disassembled and reassembled compositions. Dolak mixes and unites his painted aspen panels into visually fixating combinations. He covers some of his panels with textural lyrical abstraction paintings and others with stirringly intimate portraits then arranges the oddly shaped canvases like a jigsaw puzzle that, upon completion, appears meant to form a single unit.

Most of Dolak’s figures gaze directly at the viewer, appearing more sincere than accusing or alluring. His mother figure is both an image of grace and of exhaustion. Dolak explores the impact of thickly layered patterns through his abstraction paintings: vertical stripes across tessellated circles, loose brush strokes over sharply drawn lines. Some panels contain a mix of styles - a stray blop of paint that looks only like paint on a crisply painted figure that looks almost photographic, forcing the viewer to simultaneously see the artist’s illusion of reality as well as the medium that belies the representative form.

Clayvon Ambrose Wesley’s paintings hold complex, even epic, life stories within them. Wesley creates illusions of internal spaces, deep within the canvas, to pull the viewer into his large-scale paintings. He uses juxtaposed perspectives to layer story elements throughout his compositions and evokes mood through color with his bright orange-yellow electric sky and his deep, mellow blues.

Wesley’s 1989 essay, “Journey of an Artist,”  describes his experience painting Sloane House and the message he intends to exhort in that work: “To get where we want to go, we must climb the steps and pass through numerous doors of decisions.” The stairs and doors Wesley uses as a metaphor in his autobiographical essay are literal depictions of Escher like fire escapes and doorways in his painting. He uses geometric distortions to make the mind wander, placing intriguing details here and there to continue to the mental journey.

There is a raw, fresh quality to the exhibit. Each artist expresses something of his worldview in his work. Dimanche draws these three artists’ perspectives together to create a consonance of visual images, providing a delightful balance of the real and the imagined, the abstract and the figural. 

The basics

Where: RAC, 6128 Delmar Blvd. 63112

When: through Feb. 15

Gallery Hours: Monday-Friday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Saturday Noon-5 p.m.

Information: www.art-stl.com/gallery/gallery.cfm

Related event

Curator and Artists’ Gallery Talk: Tuesday, Jan. 28,

6:30 reception and 7 p.m. talk