Dancers move with the air and off the canvas in a photo of Yvette Gellis’ “Ascension” painting. This piece started off the Verdure exhibition and set a calm tone as people entered the gallery.
Photos by Liza Esquibias
Pepperdine adjunct Art professor Yvette Gellis’ latest exhibition is Verdure, on display at the LA Louver art gallery in Venice, Calif. It consists of a collection of whimsical and eccentric paintings, representing the emergence from isolation and a deeper awareness of herself as an artist.
“My long time investigation into painting took a turn,” Gellis wrote in a statement about the exhibition. “What is it like to be alive today during a pandemic watching the drama of our lives unfold? Deep in isolation, this series of paintings come from my soul as my most authentic and relevant work to date.”
Gellis is primarily a painter, but in addition to painting classes, she teaches Observational Drawing, Printmaking, Art Fundamentals and a first-year seminar called Unleashing Your Creative Potential Within.
The word “Verdure” is synonymous with luscious greenery, vegetation and freshness. The figures and plants in the artwork — coupled with the earth tones and thick, refined brushstrokes — radiate freedom.
Gellis tells a story of her evolution out of lockdown through her art. The exhibition begins with peace and transitions into chaos and confusion.
The background of the first two pieces creates harmony with the bodies, which are expressing feelings through physical depictions that would otherwise be lacking without clear faces.
“I fell in love with the figures like a divine romance,” Gellis said.
The vibrancy of the abstractions sprawls beyond the constraints of the canvas — with physical movement and wind being pivotal elements to the works. Softer colors compose the beginning pieces in the exhibition, while the neon creations have video-game-like features that shift the narrative of the collection.
Every canvas emits a small shift in energy — each more dynamic and abstract than the one that came before.
As the art becomes more lively, it loses its clear picture of movement.
The light from the outdoors shines on the paintings and separates the piece from the wall and the barriers of the canvas strengthen. The shapes in the brighter pieces are less animated and require a deeper, longer look into the placement of brush strokes to interpret where and what the silhouettes are.
“The figures emerged from somewhere inside of me, into the here and now,” Gellis wrote.
The paintings with neon backgrounds contain a hidden image of a checkered floor amid the elements of nature — one of Gellis’ signature designs found in past exhibitions and shows, as seen in her portfolio. These compositions also have more lines, less fluidity and a greater sense of stiffness, resembling pixels in a video game.
The natural aspects in these pieces transform to look more animated as the humanistic contours are fading into stone and plants. The chaos of the bright colors overwhelms the stillness and structure.
The colors progressively become more luminous and the human compositions glow in a way that causes them to appear to rise off the canvas — peeling away the layer of calm found in the first two paintings.
Any viewer can visit this exhibition and feel the colors of emotions of the past two years — yet the details of the imagery allow people to interpret the depictions in many unique ways.
The exhibition will be open until Oct. 16, at the LA Louver gallery.
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