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The perfect couple

bigelowwillowsThe show now at Pentimenti goes on my list of Pentimenti classics. The elegant paintings bring to mind fabric prints and home decor. The sculpture is both elegant and playful and simplified. It’s the sort of work that people love to put in their houses, not too scary, not too incomprehensible, just bits of nature and modern, reductive shapes, beautifully crafted and beautiful to look at. In the case of the sculpture, also inviting to touch and fiddle with (right, Bigelow’s “Willow,” oil on panel).

It’s not edgy, but it does what it does with grace.

The work is from Isabel Bigelow and Luis Castro, New York artists who are also a married couple. Castro is a native of Venezuela.

bigelowcanopyBigelow, who has shown her Japanese-inspired prints at Pentimenti before, has created paintings of nature, also with a heavy Japanese influence.Bigelow studied in Japan with a master printmaker so she comes by her influences honestly enough (left, “Canopy”).

Some of her prints are also available for viewing on request.

Her paintings capture the look of prints, with a sense of heavy inking and bleed at the edges of the forms.

If her images were more Western, they’d be logos. But their reverence toward nature precludes that route. Bigelow brings natural forms down to their barest essence and then enriches them with material intensity. The paintings also have a faint dry-brush, fabric-like grid across the background that fades in some places, pushes forward in others. The grid makes the paintings, which are on panel, look like they are on canvas. It also holds together the otherwise spare image.

castroboleroCastro for all his boyish delight in the shapes he is making from wood and stone, is also heavily invested in the material he is transforming. He loves the wood and stone and their history, telling me he got one chunk of wood from Mt. Vernon (no, not the cherry tree), and he got some marble from discarded Baltimore front steps and turned it into “Seesaw,” a marble frame curved to rock. “They’re destroying the city,” he opined. A piece of limestone came from a Philadelphia beer factory that was torn down.

A ball spins around in a ring. A pair of tear-drop shapes look like they agree–or disagree–depending on how they are positioned–“The Perfect Couple.” A bunch of balls of different woods and sizes tumbles out of Pentimenti’s little project room (right above, “Bolero”).

castrosolylunaCastro tells me a story about coming upon an old man–very old, maybe 95–in Stockbridge, cutting down a tree with an ax. So Castro offers to help. He swings the ax and it bounces off the tree. He tries harder. “I was going to have a heart attack,” he says. So the old man says, let me show you how it’s done, and the ax sinks in as if the tree is butter. That’s how Castro earned the wood for “Sol y Luna” (probably because the old man was grateful for the chance to feel superior). The ball and ring are different colors, but they are cut from the same piece of wood (“Sol y Luna,” left).