At Cincinnati Art Galleries

There are twin—fraternal twin–shows at Cincinnati Art Galleries: Leslie Shiels: Lost Dogs Found and Kevin T. Kelly: Embracing the Yin. Shiels provides the hunting hounds, and Kelly the countryside they might roam.

Shiels has returned to a subject that she has explored, with great success, in the past, but a wall label explains that she “pushes the concept into the ‘now’ with an enlivened palette and a greater complexity of surface.” It doesn’t take a wall label to “get” that the somewhat ordered yet still slapdash brushwork makes the surface more complex, and the palette with plenty of local color is lively. The turquoise zigzag on the back of one of the hounds leaping at a robin that has inexplicably flown too close to the pack in Kennel Wall is delicious.

One of the most successful—to my eye—of Shiels’ oil paintings in the challenging square format is Kennel Bound. The pack is still in the woods and eager to get home. They fill the foreground, and you only see the hindquarters and tails of a few who are dashing ahead. Shiels’ energetic crosshatchings convey their excitement as they head back to the kennel, anticipating a celebratory dinner after an exhausting yet exhilarating day on the hunt. This is what they were born to do.

All the energy of Shiels’ paintings is balanced by the stillness of Kevin T. Kelly’s precisionist landscapes. Nothing is happening in his farmland scenes. While there is some depth, the paintings could just as easily be hard edge-geometric abstractions–imagine them turned upside down as a painting instructor once advised me. The color is flat and static.

His sharply defined barns, trees, and roads look as much like paper cutouts as actually painted with acrylic on paper. Whatever depth there is is provided by diagonal lines and shapes receding into the distance, for example, the yellow stripe in the middle of the road in Barns at Sunset, 2009.

His addition of gouache in his 2010 paintings creates somewhat greater reality. The boards of Barn, Route 27, read as weathered, and the trees are no longer the single green of a child’s drawing, but are modulated as in nature. Kelly’s intent “is to present a sense of inner calm or tranquility, much like the state achieved near the end of a meditation,” hence the show’s title: “Embracing the Yin.” Shiels’ dogs would definitely disturb Kelly’s calm.


-Karen S. Chambers

Kevin T. Kelly: Embracing Yin and Leslie Shiels: Lost Dogs Found on view through October 29 at Cincinnati Art Galleries, 225 East Sixth St., Cincinnati, Ohio 45202. 513-381-2128.


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