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Art Review : Weldon's Art Speaks To Viewers

April 15, 1986|ROBERT McDONALD

LA JOLLA — The observation that all artists make self-portraits in their works seems to be as true today as when it was initially made in Italy during the Renaissance. Then, and especially now, the saying implied that artists make psychological or spiritual, rather than physical, images of themselves.

Thus it is appropriate that the announcement for the exhibition of works by Barbara Weldon now at the Thomas Babeor Gallery (7470 Girard Ave., La Jolla) should have a photograph of the artist on its cover.

The works of Barbara Weldon are Barbara Weldon. They direct her during the process of their realization and at the end they suggest the titles that they want as well as their proper interrelated placement in a gallery installation. They speak to us personally, engaging us intimately through their evocative powers. Their formal qualities are means to expressive ends. Through choices of materials, scale, forms, colors, gestures, textures and relationships Weldon creates lyrical abstractions which are statements of a whole life, one that, whatever its incidents, is lived with beauty. For viewers, Weldon's works are a generous source of visual nourishment.

As a mature artist, Weldon has passed through many phases of development. Although there is a distinctive Barbara Weldon "look," there is with each stage of growth a refreshening of vision, a refinement of what has gone before, along with the introduction of innovations.

Through her paintings Weldon reminds us not only that the visual arts are sensual experiences, but also that they are interrelated with all others--hearing, tasting, touching, smelling, moving. Her works have over the years implied musical, gustatory and erotic as well as visual delights.

Characteristically in the past delicately hued washes have suggested the evanescence of sensual pleasures, as well as their beauty and mystery in Weldon's works, while weightier components, masses of pigment and collage, have anchored them to this earth and to this flesh. Some have had architectonic, others, geologic, structures. All have related to human experience in scale and in intensity.

As recently as 18 months ago, Weldon adopted the use of grids pleated in her paper supports creating an illusion that painted and collaged components were active around, behind and through as well as on them. The grids structured, without apparently inhibiting, the artist's natural, lyrical impulses.

In her current exhibition Weldon exhibits selections from three series of mixed media on paper accomplished since 1985.

With the "Tango" series Weldon broke away from the restraints of a grid, giving free expression to both nervously energetic and languorously sensual impulses. Quick, complex, calligraphic flourishes, as in No. 1 through No. 5, No. 40 and No. 41, and softly curving vertical gestures, as in No. 20 and No. 21, suggest the contrasting moods and movements of the erotically charged dance for which they are named. The evocativeness of the works is all the more remarkable for the reductive palette of black and silver Weldon, an accomplished colorist, has used to paint them.

In the "Soniat" series, the next in chronological order, Weldon returned to a grid format. But it is so hidden beneath her gestural markings that all that remains is a sense of architectonic structure.

The series, appropriately enough, is named for a restored mansion the artist admired during a visit to New Orleans. And indeed the works resemble the murkily illuminated, dense interiors of abandoned residences. In them Weldon again displays her virtuosity as a colorist using a full palette. In her most recent works, comprising the "Firebird" series, Weldon again eschews the grid device for free expression with pigment and collage. Brilliantly colored jagged shapes resemble flurries of feathered forms in beige fields.

These newest works by Barbara Weldon are a fulfillment of her past development as an artist and a person. They are also a happy augury for her future.

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