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Jeff Pasek: "Unlands" at the Washington Center

“Attractor,” painting by Jeff Pasek. "Attractor," painting by Jeff Pasek. Photo credit: Gabi Clayton

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Jeff Pasek is relatively new to Olympia. He moved here from Ohio in 2014. The first I heard of him was when I saw a post about this show on Facebook. I was excited by the vibrant color and exuberance of his paint application. So I Googled him and found his website at jeffpasek.com/, which impressed me even more, especially his works on paper, including a series called "interference." His combinations of organic and geometric forms in these and his bright but nuanced color combinations are excellent.

When I visited the large exhibition of his paintings, "Unlands," at the Washington Center, however, my reaction was mixed. There are some outstanding paintings in this show, but this series of paintings is not as good as the "interference" series and other works on paper posted on his website. I invite readers to visit the site and compare these works, and visit the exhibition and see what you think.

The paintings look great from a distance, and the layout of the three-floor gallery space in the Washington Center provides for excellent opportunities to view the work at a distance, but seen up close, the paintings become overly harsh; colors and shapes clash.

Despite the jangle and clash, however, what I do like about them is a trope Pasek employs in approximately half his paintings where he superimposes over rough and highly expressive landscapes very precise geometric forms, either thin lines or circles or boxes or similar shapes so meticulous they could have been drawn using mechanical drawing tools. Some of these are highly transparent and in brilliant colors, and some are flat and opaque. In some instances, they vary or transition between transparent and opaque. In some of the paintings, these mechanical shapes seem to hover over the landscape, and in some they weave in and out between being on top and underneath.  This device adds mystique and an interesting bit of spatial play to what would otherwise be common and dull paintings.

The landscape elements range from slightly abstract to completely non-objective. Sometimes there is only the break between sky and ground to elicit the feel of landscape. In others, mountains and streams are clearly recognizable. They are painted with a heavy build-up of paint and often in rugged and jagged clumps of color.  

One painting stands out as perhaps the best in the show. It is called "Attractor." There is a heavy turmoil of stormy purplish-gray sky above green fields and a mountain stream the same color as the sky. A single fairly realistic tree stands on one side, and in front of everything are two thin, yellow lines. The colors are softer and not so harsh as in most of the other paintings, and there is an otherworldly quality to the thin, vertical lines.  

Stop by when you have a chance and take your time studying these paintings up close and at a distance, especially from the upper levels looking down to the lower, in order to take advantage of the distance and see the paintings in their less jarring aspect.

Jeff Pasek: "Unlands," by appointment (noon to 4 p.m., Monday-Friday), or to ticketed patrons an hour prior to an event, through June 26, The Washington Center of Performing Arts, 512 Washington St. SE, Olympia, 360.753.8585, washingtoncenter.org

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