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through February 9, 2003 at Square Blue Gallery, Orange County

by Roberta Carasso / Daniella Walsh

Justin Wood, "Trojan Horse", 2002,
archival inkjet print, acrylic paint
and acrylic gloss medium on heavyweight
paper mounted on board, 30 x 40".

Melissa Bebee, "Did I Tell You That
I Like the Color Pink?" 2002,
oil on canvas, 60 x 40".

Michael Walton, "Honesty," 2002,
mixed media on paper, 40 x 25".

Rachell Sumpter, "Going Places,"
2002, gouache on paper, 5 x 7".

Associating the new year with new art, brand-new, under-30 but talented artists, with no prior gallery experience, are the focus of this New Talent exhibition. This show nicely pinpoints what propels the younger generation. This harvest of eight artists is a largely figurative group, but not in the traditional sense. Younger artists, subtly or quite noticeably, use the human form as a prop, a means, rather than an end. Many pieces reveal how fusion of the digital and photographic--multiple layering, assembling, cropping, size reduction and expansion, and distortion of imagery--expands the artist's palette when technological sensibilities are applied to the painted surface. Those artists here who stick with more traditional means still maintain the undercurrent of contemporary aesthetic thinking.

Melissa Bebee paints herself in intimate moments, and it is as if the image is an overexposed photo. Her considerably white paintings are at once sharp and blurred, with a painterly sense of light that strikes the viewer with a jolt. Her brushwork and use of color is masterful and controlled without coming across as studied and uptight.

Justin Wood may be the talent to watch here. He layers several images into manipulated photographs that show how fusions of mediums are the wave of the future. Trojan Horse is not only a technically excellent example of his work, but is an intelligent social/political commentary.

Michael Walton paints doll-like people, largely twins (clones?), in provocative and distorted ways. Salee Oh builds collage from wood or sandpaper; among her most showstopping work is a painting of a paper doll holding up real people underwear.  Rachell Sumpter's small, icon-like imagery resembles drawings from a ‘30s manual or children's books found in antique stores, but with modernist composition.

In a more traditional vein, but also contemporary in essence, is Nicole Ugay's compelling, large upper-body portraits with natural gestures. Using vivid colors, outlining, and a sensitive application of paint, her people are spellbinding. 

Nathan Maffin and Corinne Cortinas contribute intense portrait images. Maffin's moody portraits of young women are striking; Cortinas’ acrylic paintings over original etchings are romantic. Both artists display strong formal skills, employing effective layering and cropping of images, and sensitive use of line, color, and tone.

This group collectively beckons the viewer to linger, contemplate the new, and finally to be inspired.