CULTURE- ART FEATURE- Legends of the fall: Schoultz's fleeting epic outlook

It was November's First Friday at Second Street Gallery, and Andrew Schoultz was looking a little worse for wear. Having spent the past 72 hours painting "Horses Bound to Nature in Chaos," a floor-to-ceiling mural on the main gallery's rear wall, the artist sat slumped on a bench, wearing a backwards baseball-cap, unnoticed by the crowds milling around taking in his work.

But when it came time to give his artist's talk, the amiable Schoultz rallied. He traced the roots of his aesthetic to his childhood in Milwaukee, where he developed passions for skateboarding, comics, and graffiti art. More recently, he said, he's found inspiration in 16th century German woodcuts and Indian miniature paintings.

All of these influences are evident in the mural and smaller works (including a piece made from five skateboard decks) on display in Schoultz's Second Street exhibition, "The End of the World and Other Stories." Using a specific vocabulary of stylized images and marks, each work resembles a panel lifted from an illustrated epic chronicling environmental peril and the havoc wreaked by globalization and war.

Schoultz's omnipresent snorting horses, with their carved-wood legs and heavy-lidded eyes (modeled after the pyramid's eye on a one-dollar bill), ironically resemble both warhorses and hobbyhorses. Other shared elements include severed-limb trees with leaves scattering in the wind, oared sailing ships hanging haplessly in midair from parachutes of patched-together currency, and eyes exploding in radiating fireworks of multicolored tears. Everywhere, Schoultz uses fingernail-like arcs of red to infuse his pieces with dynamism.

The interplay of images is so riveting that it's easy to overlook Schoultz's exacting craftsmanship. His precise palette and marks, which he replicates from one work to the next, range from infinitesimally fine black lines (sometime mimicking the cross-hatching of a dollar bill) to airbrushed swaths of misty white to flame-like waves of neon orange. Although Schoultz's narrative images are intentionally flat, he occasionally adds subtle dimensions, such as the white highlights on the mural's central tree.

In his talk, Schoultz noted that, despite the round-the-clock hours he devoted to the central mural, he likes that it's transient, destined for erasure when the exhibition ends. Working on a temporary piece, he said, allows him to engage the public in topics of immediate importance without concern for whether the work will remain relevant.

Unfortunately, the issues Schoultz addresses in his visually stimulating images don't seem likely to disappear anytime soon.

Andrew Schoultz's exhibition, "The End of the World and Other Stories," is on view through December 1 at Second Street Gallery. 115 Second St. SE (in the Charlottesville City Center for the Arts). 977-7284.