Robert C. Jones

In the early days of abstract expressionism, it was a common fallacy of criticism to try to see identifiable shapes hidden within the chaos of paint produced by Pollock, de Kooning, and company. Now, of course, we've learned not to hunt for smoking pipes and smiling bears in the swirls of abstraction. And yet, there are some painters who walk a thin line between abstraction and figuration. One such artist, longtime Northwest resident Robert C. Jones, is the region's foremost abstract painter. A new series of energetic pictures builds on a long career of abstraction that carries traces of the observable world. It's a varied collection, with some pieces executed in muted but vibrantly applied pastels—others in darker shades of green, orange, and red. The paintings are reworked and scraped and blurred and painted over again with a meticulously structured spontaneity. Throughout, one finds the trademark black slashes that have haunted Jones' work—not quite a line, but not quite a form. They aren't as virulent as Robert Motherwell's black spaces—the bends and dark ovals Jones creates aren't phallic so much as pubic. In a work such as Garden Girls III (pictured), there's an obvious allusion to nudes—pale body pastels pop forward visually from a crosshatching of greens. Throughout the composition, curves suggest the body's junctions—where the elbow or knee bends, where the legs meet torso. The cadences are masterful, and the play of soft pastels and darker forms make these paintings simultaneously limpid and forceful. It's great to see a longtime local artist doing fresh and complex work. Francine Seders, 6701 Greenwood Ave. N., 206-782-0355. 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Tues.- Sat.; 1-5 p.m. Sun. Ends Oct. 2.

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