There is a stimulating contrast between the aboveground oil landscapes of Karl Brenner and the underwater and/or reflected figurative photos of Connie Imboden in two shows at JRB Art at The Elms.
The oils by Durango, Colo.,-area artist Brenner, and photos by Baltimore, Ohio, artist Imboden opened Friday, with a second reception for Imboden set for 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Thursday.
Brenner, a retired doctor, gave up surgery 12 years ago to paint full-time. His impressionistic landscapes are understated, yet vivid and engaging. Brightly lit trees beside a river interact nicely with the shadows of rock formations at “Sunup” at the “Escalante Crossing” in a low-key but well executed 36-by-48-inch oil by Brenner, to name a case in point.
In somewhat similar fashion, “Animas River Ice” and snow serve as visual punctuation on the rocks and banks of a bend where that body of water shifts from blue-purple to green in his oil of that title.
A brown, murky “Vallecito Lake Inlet” is depicted deftly and with great delicacy by Brenner, while still waters act as a mirror for gold-green trees and distant tan-reddish mesas along “The Colorful San Juan.”
Many of Brenner’s smaller oil canvases also have great vibrancy, and perhaps even more immediacy. Brilliant, sunlit, yellow “Cottonwoods” provide a focal point as “cloud shadows” play over purple peaks behind them, in a 14-by-18-inch Brenner oil, for example.
Jumping out at us from a wall of Brenner’s 11-by-14-inch works, and nearly jewel-like, are his oils of “Anvil Mountain” and a pink “Courthouse” in Silverton, as well as of “Summer Winds Aloft,” moving clouds over trees.
Meanwhile, Imboden’s mostly untitled black-and-white and color photos of unclothed figures, “reflected in mirrors and/or submerged in water,” have an ambivalent, attraction-repulsion aspect reminiscent of the art of Francis Bacon.
A silvery current of water unites two submerged faces, and a toothy, open-mouthed woman, held from behind, seems to be shouting at us for help in two of Imoden’s most harrowing black-and-white images.
Subjects of her other disquieting black-and-white pictures include wrinkles that look almost elephant-like, a hand that appears to be reaching into the chest of a woman, and a nude female merging with a cracked mirror.
More dance-like are her photos of nearly cubistic couples who seem to be embracing or executing a pas de deux, plus one in which “Visceral Thoughts” sprout from a woman’s forehead to blend with branches.
Almost Goya-esque figures seem to come out of the darkness, like phantoms, to merge with each other, and fugitive areas of light and mostly crimson tones, in her untitled color pictures.
Among haunting color photos by Imboden are one in which a blaze of light divides the face and straining breast of a man, and another in which a clenched fist appears to thrust through a man’s bony red chest.
The shows by Brenner and Imboden at JRB are highly recommended.
— John Brandenburg, for The Oklahoman
Connie Imboden and Karl Brenner exhibit
•When: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays and 1 to 5 p.m. Sundays, through June 28.
•Where: JRB Art at The Elms, 2810 N Walker.
•Information: 528-6336 or www.jrbartgallery.com.