Friday, February 23, 2007

Master silk-screen artist Lou Stovall makes a giant leap with his show “Origin and the Landscape” at the Prada Gallery. Known for representational flowers and landscapes, he soars in a new direction with abstract, succulently colored monoprints (single prints).

Much like his previous works, Mr. Stovall’s 2004-to-2006 prints are romantic, passionate and emotional, but they also glorify brilliant colors driven by calligraphic rhythms resembling those of Jackson Pollock and Chinese art.

“Landscapes are always in my subconscious, but color’s the subject here,” he says.

Visitors first see Mr. Stovall’s best-in-show “Remember When” (resting on the floor) and “Remember When II” as they enter the smallish, brightly lighted room. Further circling the gallery clockwise, viewers encounter “Color Regit III” on a center wall. Four more prints — plus his “Origin” drawing — dance on the wall to the right.

In the “Remember” prints, the artist, 70, pulls thickly spattered, oil-pigment-like purples, golds, fuchsias, blues, rusts, greens and reds — with other hues — across horizontally oriented screens.

Calligraphic lines jumping across surfaces range from spiderlike white to blobbish blue, set against purple backgrounds. The golds set against rust reds are especially beautiful.

Oil-based silk-screen inks make this possible. “I drip, pour, paint and drizzle multiple layers of colors on the screen,” Mr. Stovall explains, “then manipulate them with a brush to create a planned or accidental image.”

He achieves even greater color subtlety than in the “Remember” prints in his Op-like “Color Regit III.” Using a squeegee to blend up to six colors atop the screen, he creates what deceptively looks like a single rose-red vertical-bar composition.

Music is a major source of inspiration in “The Sixth Movement II,” created while Mr. Stovall was listening to Sergei Rachmaninoff’s Four Piano Concertos. Music stimulates him, makes him “alive,” he says.

“The Sixth Movement II” is more exciting and linear than his other works. The loops — red on top, blue-greens in the middle and whitish-yellows in front — are heavier and more varied than in his other works.

Surprisingly, the artist says it’s a ghost image. He thinks of the reds as a man’s head, the blue-greens as his neck, and whites as his shoulders. This shows just how deceptive his work can be.

Drawing is his favorite medium, however, and “Origin” — a self-portrait — is his best-loved work. Pencil gradations create its rocks, waterfall, grasses, earth and trees, while the lead tips designate outlines.

Growing up in Springfield, Mass., Mr. Stovall savored the city’s surrounding landscape as a teenager. As he explains “Origin’s” metaphors, the self-portrait becomes three-leveled psychologically and compositionally.

He begins with what he calls his “mind” or “sense of self” in the upper clouds and waterfall beginnings,

The midlevel landscape is his “body wandering through it,” he says, “experiencing the exciting rush of water and thrust of rocks.”

He calls the third area of tall grasses below his “spirit,” or intensification of self, as his desire to better the world through his art.

Even before his latest journey, Mr. Stovall has been a major Washington printmaker since 1968, when he founded Workshop Inc., where he creates his own prints as well as those of such noted artists as David Driskell, Sam Gilliam, Josef Albers and Gene Davis.

Through Workshop Inc., he has created a community of artists and encouraged service to the community.

His current Prada exhibit demonstrates that it’s never too late to create a new stylistic path and a different kind of success.

WHAT: “Origin and the Landscape”

WHERE: Prada Gallery, 1030 Wisconsin Ave. NW

WHEN: 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, by appointment Mondays, through March 10.

PHONE: 202/342-0067

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