Visual Arts

Review: In its 24th year, 'Nude' continues to innovate

The nude human figure is something every artist must learn. There are the artists who stick to their studied ways and those who shatter expectations.

The Lexington Art League's Nude 2010 tries to explore all of the possible paths.

This is the 24th annual Nude show. It has become not only LAL's main event but one of the pre-eminent visual art events in Lexington. It involves artists from across the country, and the works differ wildly, having only the nude subject in common.

But even the subject is open to interpretation.

"I was looking for an understanding of the figure," said Esther Randall, who with Boris Zakic selected the 85 works for the show from more than 1,100 submissions. "I was also looking for compelling content, something that was not dry or superficial or shallow."

The exhibit's popular Fourth Friday mingling event is Friday.

The figures are not always literally, or revealingly, nude, and the works don't always resemble the everyday human figure. In Lon Brauer's Filez, the painting is engulfed with fleshlike forms that suggest more than portray a nude, providing an overall rich and eye-catching effect.

And what would a nude show be without a tribute to classicism? One room of the show at the LAL @ Loudoun House gallery is largely devoted to traditional figure studies. There are stylistic variations, but the works all show a deliberate hand, from the painterly portraits by James Hajicek to finely tuned drawings by A.R. Howell.

In organizing the show, the works were classified in a loose way. The themes are not clearly addressed or even completely inclusive, but they give each room a vaguely cohesive feel.

Upstairs, you can see the artwork defined under the theme of "fluidity." There is some reference to water, such as Ophelia I by Dobree Adams, in which the subject of the photograph seems to be the pond more than the figure floating almost out of sight. Other pieces were included based on their portrayal of light or movement.

There are routine photographs and paintings, but these are interspersed with two-dimensional pieces that treat the nude in a more whimsical or unexpected fashion.

Stroll, a refined painting by Jim Wainscott, is first differentiated from the rest by its round panel, then by the veiled portrayal of the male nude moving through a sea of vibrant foliage.

Reaching Out With Horns, a drypoint by Lindsay Riley, is so small and covertly placed that you might miss it — but don't. The piece has a delicacy and style not seen in the other works.

The more exciting pieces of this year's Nude show are those created by unusual means.

Floating by Sarah Vaughan Knouse is made with resin-coated strings that really do seem to float in space, skimming over an invisible body and rippling to the floor.

Arzu Ozkal Tehlan's video Time-Based Figure Drawing is unexpectedly hypnotizing.

As Zakic writes in his juror's statement: "Make no snap judgments, nor take it for granted. The nude may have been with us for a long, long time, but it is as ever-changing as it is persistent."

LAL's Nude show has been around for many years, but it has again proved its importance by choosing artists who rise to the challenge of redefining and re-creating the human figure.

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