Ten Years of Courageous Nonsense, at Lawrenceville’s Gallery on 43rd Street, unites the paintings of Mark Gualtieri with those of T.K. Mundok. The title may not be appropriate; the viewer is unlikely to conspire in the artists’ self-depreciation, and it’s unclear whether the decade mentioned discloses length of artistic partnership between the individuals, sum total years of production or shared duration of public exhibition. It doesn’t really matter. What’s important is that the works gathered deliver movement and impact, and incite the imagination.
Gualtieri’s “Lunar Table Series” is a smattering of tiny, consistent orbs trapped within squares, identical but for color. Vivid red supernovas into yellow flame in one; another reflects seas Caribbean or Mediterranean in blues and greens, cool in themselves but glimpsed through a filter of undulating heat; in yet another, the ubiquitous sphere is eclipsed, with white light, palest blue and yellow rocketing from its darkness.
The worlds themselves are small — deceptively so. The ferocity of their hues commands a room from within a square a few inches in size. But the blankness that edges these worlds binds them fully, offering no means of egress. It’s not quite clear if this space exists to confine or to protect; either way, the power and intensity that vibrates within Gualtieri’s lunar worlds can bounce off its walls but never break them.
The vital splashes of color in Mundok’s “Lau-Tzu” and “Twins and Mirrors” series, meanwhile, do the opposite. Serpentine trails, pulsing curvatures of pure color are echoed by their paler cousins that course through and around each other, overlapping in clusters. They’ve plonked down in nests on the paper’s surface, but it doesn’t look like they’ll stay where they’ve lit. Like ropes once tight but now slackening, waves of crimson and indigo are ready to burst away from their compatriots and slither from the page.
The creative exploration of these two area artists is superficially similar; both are represented primarily through abstract studies of color and shape centered in isolated expanses of otherwise unsullied white. (Gualtieri’s snowdrifts are formed from the matting containing his mixed-media works; Mundok’s white space is the untouched paper his spirals of color have landed on.) This similarity provides a sense of complicity between one and the next. But there are enough differences in approach to provide diversity, and through diversity the slight but insistent tug of conflict necessary to make the juxtaposition really interesting. They’re twinned, but decidedly fraternal.
Ten Years of Courageous Nonsense continues through Dec. 31. Gallery on 43rd Street, 187 43rd St., Lawrenceville. 412-683-6488