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Cultivating abstraction

McLarty ditches the figure; galleries galore open Friday.

CANDY MAN: By Bev McLarty.
  • CANDY MAN: By Bev McLarty.

Painter Beverly McLarty is on a new path, and it was quite a gap she bridged to get there.

Fans of McLarty’s earlier work — confetti-busy, multi-colored and textured figurative paeans to womanhood — will find the same passion for color and surface in the new work, currently on exhibit at the Heights Gallery. But the figure is gone, and in its place is work that finds focus, as color and composition take a heightened role.

McLarty’s best work is also her biggest. In these 7-foot-tall canvases, McLarty adds a note of calm to her usual theater-district frenzy by using areas of flat color. In “The Candy Man,” she’s placed big black dripping squares and streaks against fields of periwinkle and aqua, with white and tan blocks for bones. McLarty has always used fabrics and other things to create a dimensional surface; in the new work, she’s easing up, letting patches cool off and sink into the distance. The quiet fields let the busy areas, where she’s scratched out or built up, give something to hang the abstraction on.

“Tarheel Blue” — on display in the window of the gallery — is another masterpiece for McLarty, a quantum leap from flowery Ophelias. “Tarheel Blue” floats rosettes of squeezed color against a pale field the way Monet scumbled waterlilies across his pond.

The smaller pieces inside are more affordable, but abstraction usually needs a lot of space to transcend the decorative.

The exhibit, “Cultivating Perceptions,” runs through May 26.

Practically every gallery in Little Rock is having a reception of some sort Friday night, May 12.

Downtown, it’s 2nd Friday Art Night, which will offer variety and number with several group shows (“Celebrating Excellence: Arkansas Arts Council Fellowship Program 1986-2006” at the Terry House, “Boundaries” at the HAM and “Deep Roots,” work from Memphis’ NIA artist collective, at Hearne Fine Art).

Photography is the focus of “Boundaries” (with photographs by Dero Sanford, Jerry Atchley and Rusty Hubbard) and at the Cox Creative Gallery, where John Ingram will give a digital show. “Boundaries” also includes sculpture by Erin Lorenzen; Nick Devlin and Richie Johnson will provide music.

River Market Artspace, which shows work in all media, will donate a portion of proceeds from sales Friday night to the Birch Tree Communities Expressive Arts Program. Ten Thousand Villages, next door to Artspace, will also stay open late.

Arkansas Art Gallery at 500 Main St. in North Little Rock, which will be open 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. for Argenta Art Walk, will feature landscapes by Dwight “Kuimeaux” Drennan.

Local Colour, 5813 Kavanaugh Blvd., will be open until 7:30 p.m. for a show of paintings by Matt McLeod and Heather Mainford, “Life. Light. Color.”

Cantrell Gallery, 8206 Cantrell, will host a reception from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Friday for its new exhibit, “Confidential Materials,” paintings and photographs by Arkansas Democrat-Gazette artists John Deering, Kirk Montgomery and John Sykes.


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