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Passageways: Works on Paper by Patrick Willett, Curated by Gerald Mead

Time Passages

“Passage” may be defined as “the process or means of transit,” a “transition from one state to another,” a “short section of a book or music.” Patrick Willett’s spare landscapes register all these impressions. The quiet marblecolumned interior of the History’s Museum’s State Court atrium is a fine contemplative space to view this series of muted palette watercolors; a personal narrative in starkly isolated scenes of specific physicality that the artist qualifies as, “distinctively American intersections of access and egress.” Culminating in an exhibition spanning work over the last decade Willett’s light touch and sure sense of placement hold these images in the imagination like film stills as if in anticipation of accompanying subtitles or sound track. Sites such as the long derelict Customs house adjoining the International Bridge at Squaw Island—even the bridge itself—lonely vistas depicting viaducts and railroad cuts suggest in these scenes, unmarked by human intervention, an abiding sense of longing; for a passing train, a car, a biker—and yet still wanting nothing to intrude on the solitary perspective of empty rails, and roadways. The artist gives the Cherrios plant an articulation of solidity and scale enhancing its monolithic character. His treatment of surfaces allows the viewer a chance to see the underside of roads and bridges intertwining matrices of curves and grids. The cantilevered vantage point of a work depicting the ivy clad turrets of the Richardson complex heightens a sense of its predominance as a 19th Century architectural archetype.

Watercolor is a medium easily overwrought. Willett’s relaxed practiced brush leaves traces of page white in strokes gathered in light wisps and bold flares of color pulling the viewer into each scene with a rush of acceleration transiting into an existential distance beyond.

The exhibit at the Buffalo History Museum continues through August 29.

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