Forget everything you think you know about watercolorists. Bill Fravel, whose watercolor landscapes inaugurate the new Rever Gallery, does not fit the stereotype of the prim and prissy purist who frowns upon new techniques and experimentation.
At first glance some of his work looks superficially like those fussy purists’ scenic vistas of mountains and valleys. But if you look closer, there’s a lightness of touch and earthy vitality. Unlike many watercolorists, Fravel does not sketch in pencil before applying color; he paints directly in the plein air tradition. He doesn’t use masking to cordon off areas to keep them pristine, but relies on his skill. And he has found a way to make transparent watercolors look opaque while maintaining their luminosity.
Fravel has amazing technical ability, combined with a willingness to take risks. Having lived in, hiked through or camped around Hawaii, California’s coast and Sedona, Arizona, he knows his settings. Fravel works in two distinct styles: one traditional and impressionistic, the other hard-edged and semi-abstract. He employs the first when painting misty coastal scenes, distant mountain vistas and the verdant rolling hills of California, where the muted colors of objects seen from a distance are faithfully rendered. He reserves the second for the Southwest’s oxide-tinged canyons, where the architectonic forms and Day-Glo colors lend themselves to semi-abstract treatments.
Nearby at Trifecta Gallery, the annual Rack Show is a lollapalooza, featuring over a hundred works in two and three dimensions from the Trifecta’s artist stable. Although the space is small, these pieces make the gallery seem large—maybe it’s the expansiveness of going from Sam Davis’ forlorn robot to Tom Pfannerstill’s trompe l’oeil trash re-creations.
It’s great to revisit favorites like Jack Endewelt’s hard-object paintings of guns and planes, painted softly in subtle shades of gray, and his small painting of a skull. Marty Walsh, the owner/director, also treats visitors to her own luscious dessert paintings.
The Arts Factory is the best it’s ever been, with quality galleries tucked into every nook and cranny.