A rustic brown structure anchors the image above ribbons of muddy-gold, white-yellow fields and below towering, wooded foothills.
You might think: I know this place. I’ve been there.
You probably haven’t. Some of artist Will Klemm’s paintings are based on photographs, others on firsthand contact, but many of them simply live in his head.
He invites you to transport yourself into these visions, as well.
"Harvest" is perhaps the most intriguing of the paintings in his 23rd showing for Wally Workman Gallery, titled "Will Klemm: Nine Stories." Yet the entire exhibit, staged in multiple rooms, is worth a good deal of close scrutiny.
For some three decades, Klemm has stayed at the top of his artistic game. He had confidently established a distinctive voice by the 1990s, and while he has not abandoned his signature landscapes and still life studies, they still defy easy analysis.
Which is good. Better yet, they change constantly.
He has moved on from mostly pastels softened by blurred edges and moody lighting to mostly oils, some on canvas, others on blocks. He daubs the paint more often to excellent effect, and drags a half-dry brush over surfaces for more subtle results.
New to me are his groupings of nine square blocks, each painted to its edges with a sort of miniature Klemm. Some of the blocks in a set might be florals, others landscapes, still others abstract forms.
Painted more loosely than the large canvases in this show, these tile sets form their own stories introduced by short, apt titles. One of the best, "Memorial Day," for instance, can be read in any order and reordered in the mind of the viewer. Some of the other sets of blocks feel a bit crowded, but all of them invite reverie.
This part of the show represents an evolving chapter in Klemm’s career, as does the one large, atypical study of rushing water ("Current").
Almost all the large landscapes, however, distill and extend his decades-long project.
They are, in a word, magnificent.
"Afternoon Crossing" positions one brilliant white sailboat in wide expanses of gray and blue water, land and sky. "North" charms with its triply reflected moonlight in a tranquil river valley. " Solitude" recalls and purifies some of Klemm’s early visions: An undecorated structure, illuminated by strong light, rises amid a distinct but almost blank foreground, middle ground and background.
Sounds elementary, right? Yet it is hard to look away.
More on "Harvest": This painting envelops the viewer whether seen from 20 paces or just a few inches. Its asymmetrical balance impresses from far away, while up close, one notices the purples that fleck the hilltops as well as the tips of crops in the foreground. What looks from a distance like a solid, hard-edged farm building is in fact constructed of blurred lines and underscored shadows.
Old Masters and the Impressionists inform Klemm’s visions, yes, or at least our understanding of them, but he almost never takes a distressing step backward. He thinks about his art with rigor and care, but his art does not begin and end with doctrine.
We are indeed fortunate that Klemm, who splits his time between Austin and Taos, remains a central figure in our art scene.
"Will Klemm: Nine Stories" continues through Nov. 28 at Wally Workman Gallery, 1212 W. Sixth St. Call 512-472-7428 or go to this link to schedule an appointment and to receive directions for parking and entering the gallery.