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See This Art: Hot paint wars with cold in ‘As the World Stood Still’

Michael Barnes
Austin 360
Kevin Greer's "Atomic" holds the wall and the room at Davis Gallery.

It radiates heat.

“Atomic,” a singular painting by Kevin Greer seen in his “As the World Stood Still” solo show at Davis Gallery, holds the wall and the room.

The hazy horizontal color bands move vertically from a deep red-purple at the base to a dark rose then a reddish orange, a brilliant orange and finally a yellowish white.

Given the title, does it represent a nuclear explosion? Does it matter?

This acrylic on canvas kept me looking.

I never prospect for historical art references in today’s art, yet sometimes a bond is inescapable. The stacked colors and blurred boundaries in “Atomic” — as well as the ambiguous feelings that they elicit — remind me of Mark Rothko, a master of abstraction.

Blissfully, “Atomic” is among the most enigmatic of Greer’s paintings now at the Davis Gallery. And in his war among the cool and warm colors on display — in any way an allusion to climate change? — it is among the hottest.

Some of the looser forms on Greer’s large canvases emerge as suns, planets, moons or horizons. The show’s title painting, for instance, looks like a planet ablaze in fire and, at the same time, awash with water.

Two vertical canvases unfold planetary discs arranged in arcs that echo time-lapse photography, or maybe multiple phases of multiple moons.

“Nowness Unfolds,” perhaps the most busy of the paintings, looks like crumpled paper or wrinkled fabric. Something about that the way the canvas of dark and light grays is sewn down the middle hints at denim.

It is always difficult to take in the art placed in the front windows of the Davis Gallery. Do you go outside and look from the sidewalk, or squeeze into the space next to the glass? One of the most commanding images in the show, “Synergy,” a rising force of drips and spatters on dark blue, is hung in this interstitial space. It reminded me of photographic records of large-scale metallurgy, or perhaps it is yet another of the show’s astronomical phenomena.

A series of smaller canvases, two triptychs and one quadriptych, are studies of a flame-like presences shimmering on a dark fields. I am less enamored of Greer’s paintings that feature hard-edged geometrical subjects or hints at graffiti.

Either science or science fiction plays a role in almost all the works on display.

During my visit, the moody jazz of Lost Cat Magnet and Joshua Thomson emanated from hidden speakers. Turns out Greer painted the jacket art for their album, “Low Orbit,” and the music was played during the show’s opening party. (Aptly, I am listening to it as I write.)

On the subject of museum and gallery openings, I haven’t missed the parties at all during the pandemic. I miss the people. Not the parties, which always distract from the art.

I would not want, for instance, anyone standing between me and the enveloping vision that is Greer’s “Atomic.”

“As the World Stood Still” can be seen through appointment only through March 6 at Davis Gallery, 837 W. 12th St., davisgalleryaustin.com, 512-477-4929.

Michael Barnes writes about the people, places, culture and history of Austin and Texas. He can be reached at mbarnes@statesman.com.

About This Story

You Gotta See This is a recurring series about art around Austin that we think deserves a look.