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"A paper narrative"

First art exhibition at Browsers Bookshop

“Go,” paper cut by Nikki McClure. Photo courtesy Evan Clayton Horback

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There's a new visual arts venue in Olympia, and I hope this won't be a one-shot deal, but rather the first of many shows to come.

Collage artist Evan Clayton Horback secured the use of the balcony area at Browsers Bookshop for an art exhibit space and curated a show featuring works on paper by five local artists: Nikki McClure, Arrington De Dionyso, Aisha Harrison, Horback and Madeline Waits. McClure is probably Olympia's best-known artist. Horback and Harrison are also well known (Harrison's exhibition of clay and salt sculptures at Salon Refu in 2013 was one of the most astounding sculpture shows I've ever seen). Dionyso and Waits are new to me.

In a written statement presented as a collage, Horback wrote: "This show ... includes work from a variety of artistic processes, styles and themes creating a more unified visual conception of our artistic lives. Olympia seems to be changing briskly and this exhibition grew out of perceived need for artists to put forth some more unified vision in a new, community space. For me, "A Paper Narrative" seems to highlight the freedoms to dream ideologically while also considering some of the layered social-political complexities working against them."

Each artist is represented by approximately half a dozen small works on paper.

Horback creates a collage on the covers of old books. They are rough and gritty in texture and are often narrative in content, although the stories are seldom, if ever, clearly spelled out. They contain elements of mystery, often humor, and sometimes sly references to social and political content. Many of his collages look like story illustrations in literary magazines, and some look like book covers -- no little irony there, keeping in mind that they are collaged onto book covers. In one of his works in this show, the cover is "turned back" -- literally, like covers on a bed. And peeking out are the figures of a sleeping couple. On the "sheet" beneath them (bed sheet/sheet of paper) is written in calligraphic script "on this page so pure and white . . ."

His works are simple, entertaining, thoughtful and aesthetically pleasing.

The wonder of McClure's cut-paper art is her use of depth, not deep space as illustrated using perspective, but the shallow depth of things that are layered, an effect that is heightened in her works because of the high black-white contrast. Her paper cuts have a wide appeal because they picture families and children and working people in situations to which everyone can relate, and because they are so meticulously crafted.

Her piece called "Go" features the image of a bicyclist as seen from the point of view of the cyclist. All that can be seen of the rider is hands gripping the handlebar, and all that can be seen of the bike is the handlebar and its attached woven basket -- like a girl's bike from the 1950s. She, assuming it's a she, is heading down a country road, and three other bicyclists are pedaling in a collision course toward her. It is dramatic and delightful, and we just somehow know she's going to win this showdown.

Harrison is showing collages on wood panels that feature figures, mostly faces, somewhat crudely drawn with subtle colors and a delicate contrast of line drawing with larger flat areas of color. The paper is crinkled and slightly transparent. These collages do not have the immediate impact of her sculpted figures but grow on the viewer with time. Most intriguing is that close examination reveals line drawings that create the effect of an x-ray that shows not muscle and bone but what appears to be some kind of ancient hieroglyphics.

Waits' decorative works in ink and other media combine elements of Australian dot paintings and psychedelic art of the 1960s. De Dionyso's colorful works present figures, some nude and some clothed, marching and dancing across the surface.

"A Paper Narrative," 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., Monday-Saturday; 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Sunday, through Sept. 24, Browsers Bookshop, 107 Capitol Way N., Olympia, 360.357.7462, browsersolympia.com

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