David Bailin, Warren Criswell and Sammy Peters are three of Arkansas’s top artists, and good friends who for years have gotten together regularly to dispel artistic weltschmertz and have a good yak. That dynamic, and their exceptional works, should make for a great exhibition at the Bradbury Gallery of Arkansas State, where their show, “Disparate Acts,” opens March 13. It should also make their pre-opening talks about the work, at 3 p.m. March 12, enlightening and entertaining and I hope someone makes a video of it.
Bailin’s larger-than-life charcoals on paper, now with a touch of color, share a theatrical, narrative component with Criswell’s nighttime mysteries, but their intent and style vary greatly. Peters is an abstract expressionist and tremendous colorist; like all abstract painters, the storyline is internal. That works by all three of these men will hang in one place is tremendous.
Bailin’s website includes his artist statement on his latest series of work, which he calls Dreams and Disasters; those works will be included in “Disparate Acts.” Criswell writes about his connection to Bailin and Peters in his essay “Words, Images, Presence and Pizza,” a good read on his website that includes the following:
I’m the most introverted and antisocial of our group, but there’s a little of that in the other two as well. At one of our meetings I was talking about how a work of art, like a quantum particle, doesn’t really exist unless it’s seen by someone (you can hear my recording of this conversation in the barroom scene of my movie, “Moments”), and David said, “That’s the only reason I meet with you guys, because, you know, I’m being observed, therefore I exist.” It was a joke, but there is some value in being able to confess your sins to fellow victims of a fatal attraction.
No matter what their mood, all these paintings give the impression of having been caught in the act. And it’s not just paint that has been caught. In spite of their sometimes imposing physical presence, they are nevertheless pictures – images of something beyond themselves. They are fundamentally metaphors of the human condition. Geometry may be their language, but it is a passionate geometry.
The Bradbury Gallery, in the Fowler Center, is open noon to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.