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James Kuiper
at Friesen Gallery, Seattle, Washington
Review by Matthew Kangas

Common Oaks, 2004, Oil on Canvas 42.25 x 50.25 inches
Photo: Jodie Nelson Courtesy of Friesen Gallery

The veteran art professor from Chico State University, James Kuiper, brought 21 small- and medium-sized landscapes to Friesen Gallery for his second solo show in Seattle. The 64-year-old Michigan State University graduate displayed two bodies of work: thickly painted landscapes and landscape-based abstractions. The landscape oils, averaging four-by-six feet, were by far the stronger. Verging on aerial or extreme-distance views, the big landscapes took great liberties with colors, recognizable elements, and surface texture, so much so that they appear as more successful abstract paintings than do the smaller works, which the artist calls “fleeting landscape memories.” The Unseen Procession and Common Oaks (both 2004) capture the dry quality of north central California scenery. Trees and hills are so divided and regulated in the latter that they almost create a grid. Heaving blue cliffs and red- and orange-topped buttes with tinges of mossy green inhabit the former.

Orchard Remains (2007) seems a transitional work; it has a beautiful green, hilly backdrop, but is interfered with by the elongated orange blobs that permeate the second, lesser body of work that runs between 20 and 30 inches square each. Marred by gray lines stretched over blander, creamy grounds, these pictures retain horizon lines and “skies” that diminish their status as abstractions. Building on the sublimely all-gray Mist (2003) with its outlines and shadows of trees, the exhibition’s high point, Foothills (2005), adds pale green to its diagonally intersecting composition of tree-pocked hills and valleys. The explorations revealed in the smaller paintings (not really abstract at all in the long run) might be better suited to the medium of drawing or printmaking. Still, Kuiper’s example is salutary for Northwest artists who favor landscape; they can benefit from seeing his bold painterly attack.

Common Oaks, 2004, James Kuiper, Oil on canvas, 42.25" x 50.25"
Photo: Jodie Nelson Courtesy of Friesen Gallery

This article was written for and published in art ltd. magazine art ltd logo sml

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