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Gray Shines at The Morrison

Cleve Gray’s work always looks good in The Morrison Gallery’s expanse of white walls and gleaming wood floors. Gray was a Morrison artist from the first days of the gallery, and William Morrison has returned to Gray’s abstract impressionist paintings frequently. Now Morrison is showing a fine collection of 20 pictures from the early 1960s, when Gray ­­­— influenced by contemporaries such as Pollock, Rothko and Frankenthaler — began producing large paintings made with non-traditional techniques. Gray’s pictures from this period were often large expanses of pure color applied with brushes, or poured, sponged, even stained onto the linen surfaces. He often included calligraphy that gestured toward symbols and signs. The works could look both modern and ancient at the same time. The current show begins with two enormous paintings hanging on the left wall as you enter the gallery. The first, “Whisper,” is all violet and gray with some aluminum paint as well and measures 9-by-7 feet. A second huge picture — also with aluminum highlights — is followed by the only small work on display. Just 1 by 1.5 feet, untitled and in white, gray and charcoal, the picture is obviously a deconstructed woman lying down, knees bent and facing up, arms bent and spread around her head. It is striking for the unusual, identifiable figurative aspect in a Gray abstract. Also in the gallery, and another reason to visit, is a small collection of fine prints displayed in Morrison Editions, a new separated area to the far right as you enter. Mostly affordable impressions from limited runs — some are quite expensive, of course — the prints are by notable, often quite famous artists. A wonderful Chuck Close self-portrait was made from nine color screens in 2007. “Aerie” is a nice Helen Frankenthaler made from 94 screens. And there is a compelling still from Richard Serra’s film, “Hand Catching Lead,” in black and white. Jim Dine’s “Lincoln Center Pinocchio” surprises with its woodblock technique. Robert Cottingham’s “Empire” depicts the eponymous New York City diner in flat yellow, turquoise and a faded Sienna red. There is Wolf Kahn’s “Down in the Valley” made with 54 screens and Jamie Wyeth’s “The Gourd Tree” in 31 colors. Of course there is a Cleve Gray, “Untitled (Silver Diver Series)” all orange, black, gray and white with bold splashes of purple. “Cleve Gray” will hang through Oct. 16. Morrison Editions will show a series of rotating prints. The Morrison Gallery is at 8 Old Barn Road in Kent. For information, call 860-927-4501 or visit www.morrisongallery.com.

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