Side by side: Togetherness brings out the best

It would be easy for Second Street Gallery, when they split a show between two artists, to simply split a show between two artists. You over there, and you over there, and no complaining. 
But the modest two-person shows they have been putting on for some time now have been much more thoughtful than that. Obviously, they put some consideration into the pairing, as there is usually some sort of aesthetic resonance between the two bodies of work on display.
Typically, the gallery chooses two artists whose work shares some kernel of aesthetic interest, even as the two artists produce wildly divergent artwork. It’s a bit like listening to two orchestras side by side, each taking a crack at rearranging a jazz standard. Having the two artists’ works placed alongside one another allows the gallery-goer to trace the odd paths two distinct creative personalities will take with a common concept. 
“Color/Forms,” the current exhibit of work from Suzanna Fields and Ariana Huggett, is a fine example of this sort of thing. Both artists seem to have found the plain old flat rectangular canvas pretty dull. The one major element that links them after all is an interest in a post-canvas world.
And for Suzanna Fields, that description is a gross understatement. Fields has literally abandoned the painted surface altogether. Using an acrylic gel infused with pigment, she produces works that are paint and nothing else– a technique that pushes her work into a middle space between painting and sculpture. 
Perhaps inspired by the glue gun, Fields constructs her artwork out of long, sticky strands or green/brown, calamari-like rings piled into a thick mass; she sticks the work directly to the wall, which it tends to spread across like some mutant fungus, or hang from like an accident at the candy factory. Bright, colorful, and instantly identifiable, Field’s stuff grabs your attention as soon as you enter the gallery space.
Huggett can do bright and colorful just as well, though her work is tight, controlled, and modest, where Fields’ is loose and ostentatious. And, in stark contrast to Fields, Huggett has not abandoned the painted surface. She rather likes painting wood plaques of a kind easily found at craft stores. The shapes vary, and the sizes range from smallish to tiny. One swirly, candy-colored number couldn’t be any bigger than a softball. She overlays them with repeated patterns and shapes– typically formed from carefully modulated gradation in a single color– which either conform or build from the shape of the plaque or work against it. This subtle interference gives her work a bit of movement and energy. 
Huggett certainly doesn’t lose by having her work placed alongside Fields’. The side-by-side arrangement brings out the dynamic qualities in each.  

Second Street Gallery presents Suzanna Fields’ and Ariana Huggett’s “Color/Forms,” an exhibit of artwork that blurs elements of painting and sculpture, through February 2. 201 Second St. NW. 977-7284.

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