'I feel like I've walked into spring!" said a woman who had entered Louise Belcourt's first exhibition at Locks Gallery shortly before me. She looked transported.
I felt a similar rush. Belcourt's abstract compositions of softly rounded and hard-edged geometric shapes, painted in her distinctive palette of white, black, pale blues and violets, and grassy and mossy greens, suggest landscapes and cityscapes on the brink of bursting back to life.
But this aura of spring suggested that season in a colder, flintier region than the one I'm used to. I wasn't at all surprised to learn that Belcourt, who is from Montreal, divides her time between a studio in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, with views of the East River and Manhattan, and a rural town in Quebec, where she paints in a converted barn overlooking the St. Lawrence River.
Belcourt has referred to her oil paintings as "paintings of sculptures of landscapes," and her latest works, with their aggregations of mounded and blocky forms, continue to suggest exactly that.
Mound #18, an uncharacteristically nocturnal-looking image centered on a cross shape reminiscent of a suspension bridge, could well have been inspired by a view of the Williamsburg Bridge. The stacked forms in Mound #28 (Douglaston, Queens, NY) suggest a peripheral view of houses along a suburban street. Not knowing rural Quebec, I can only guess that Lamb's Ear #4, which has a more open, horizontally oriented composition than many of Belcourt's paintings, emanates from a view of the St. Lawrence River.
At 76-by-85 inches, Belcourt's largest painting, Cliff Flower #7, is an anomaly not just for its size - most of the paintings here are modest in scale - but also for the buoyancy and goofiness it projects, with a dancing cloverleaf shape and blimplike shapes floating through the air with abandon. It's almost as though Belcourt tried to conjure a collaboration with the late painter Elizabeth Murray.
Or maybe it's her toast to spring fever.
Through Feb. 4 at Locks Gallery, 600 Washington Square South. Hours: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. Information: 215-629-1000 or www.locksgallery.com.
Scaling way, way down
After leaving his full-time job as the lead preparator at MoMA last year, and finally allowing himself the time to paint all day and all night if he chose to, New York painter Mark Williams rightly worried that his new self-imposed freedom might encourage painter's block. So he set himself a project. Instead of working on the large, sublimely colored canvases he's known for, he decided to go diminutive, as in 10-by-8 inches and smaller, and to limit himself to combinations of black, white, and gray.
Now, 27 of those compact paintings are being shown together for the first time at Larry Becker Contemporary Art, in Williams' first solo show with the gallery (he took part in group shows there in 2011 and 2012).
Having seen Williams' larger paintings, I would not have thought he could transpose his minimal compositions to such a minuscule scale without sacrificing the punch that big paintings generally offer. But his use of large, defined areas of white, black, and gray on these little canvases and wood panels is so adroit each one easily holds its own. I prefer his paintings on stretched canvases to the ones on wood panels because I think minimal geometric paintings benefit from softer surfaces like canvas, and I like the exposed drips on the sides of Williams' paintings when they're on canvas better than his drips on raw wood, which seem harsh to my eye.
The gallery has mounted seven of Williams' earlier paintings in its back space, all of them more modulated and atmospheric than his recent "experiments."
Through Feb. 18 at Larry Becker Contemporary Art, 43 N. 2nd St. Hours: 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Information: 215-925-5389 or www.artnet.com/lbecker.html.
Despair behind the Curtain
I mistakenly assumed the Print Center's "Daily Life: Photography from Lithuania" would comprise contemporary photographs from that country. Walking through the show without studying the wall captions for each work, I thought Lithuania must be in some sort of dire time warp. Almost every image looked like it dated from the 1960s or '70s. A second, slower perusal proved me right. Almost all of this show's photographs date from those decades.
What's even more surprising in this show, perhaps, is the poverty and sense of political despair that American photographers and their Eastern European counterparts dwelled on in those years. It is still vividly present in photojournalism but seems quite gone from contemporary fine-art photography.
Through April 22 at the Print Center, 1614 Latimer St. Hours: 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. Information: 215-735-6090 or www.printcenter.org. Through April 22.