Wednesday, June 27, 2012 | 6:50 p.m.
After living in Italy for a couple of years, you take a job in Qatar and eventually find yourself living in Las Vegas, where you’re sort of taking inventory and considering your next step in life. You’re on a good career track. But in the back of your mind, what you really want to do is be involved with the arts, maybe intern at a gallery or work in a museum. After all, art history is what you studied at Brandeis.
Fortunately, you have friends with similar interests, and you partner to open your own gallery—something new for the community, exhibiting artists, local or otherwise, who haven’t shown here.
That’s pretty much how it unfolded for Amanda Harris, a Seattle native who moved here from Qatar in 2007. In January, she opened Amanda Harris Gallery with Sam Cherry of SoHo Lofts and Michael Vakneen. That none of them had run a gallery or a show isn’t evident in the large space at SoHo that shares an entrance with Lady Sylvia.
Its current exhibit, Painting to the End of the Night, features three series highlighting Wess Dahl-Berg’s approaches to contemporary painting—Existential Paint (voluminous, sensual, monochromatic grid works) Aesthetic Continuum (undulating patterned organic shapes) and Nocturnal Landscape (oil paintings of the desert at night).
Though each series triggers a different response, all three share the same laborious layering approach from the Las Vegas artist, who’s mostly shown in LA. In Existential Paint, Dahl-Berg represents the smooth sensuality of paint in liquid form by strategically heaping rich portions onto canvas through precise vertical and horizontal strokes, each of which creates berms that build up, resulting in a dense grid with a monochromatic surface—an over-the-top lusciousness offset by geometry.
In Aesthetic Continuum, he applies acrylic paint onto plexiglass using an airbrush and a raised stencil to create vertical and horizontal bands of color (blurred from the spray), giving depth to the surface.
Nocturnal Landscape is a gorgeous collection of paintings, which at first seem black, but are actually desert renderings made from pure color in a several-layer process that results in beautifully rich, dark works that respond to gradations of light in the room. Unlike Dahl-Berg’s other paintings, which assert themselves immediately, these require a sort of observance that is well worth the time. It’s a way of slowing down the viewing process, Harris says, similar to the way time in the desert landscape helps slow down your thinking.
It’s hard to believe Dahl-Berg has been hiding in our midst. Fortunately, there’s a new gallery in town.