Second Avenue’s beta pictoris gallery is currently displaying two artists who work with intense, nearly obsessive detail, both in their painting and in their thought processes. In the front room, UAB professor Derek Cracco’s Blinded resurrects an old technique for modern impact; in the back, Brooklyn artist Peter Fox goes the extra mile to tap into his subconscious with AUTONOMIC.
It’s hard to say that any methodology in contemporary painting is especially popular, but pointillism, one way or another, isn’t one of them. Cracco’s Blinded paintings use series of dots to depict dangerously vivid bursts of light, whether they’re supernovas, sunrises or explosions. In the cozy confines of the gallery, the individual dots not only serve as pixels for the images they depict, but also as large enough figures to have their own obtrusive sense of character. To his credit, Cracco manages to combine the sense of wonder at this imagery with a meaningful dose of unease at the risks of staring at the sun.
In the back room, Peter Fox’s AUTONOMIC paintings take that level of obsession a step further. Over a decade ago, Fox determined to make 10,000 drawings without conscious thought; no matter how present he was during the first 1,000 drawings, they at some point became purely mechanical operations. He’s used those drawings as a basis for abstract paintings with vivid primary colors, but he’s taken yet another step away from conscious consideration by embracing a separate persona, Tracy Volkswagen, as he does so.
Those paintings – whose creation is documented in YouTube videos that play on a television in the back room – are the evidence of Fox’s oddly modernist ambitions to let his subconscious rule the roost. The AUTONOMIC series is captivating on a visual level, but like Blinded, the ideas behind it are just as fascinating.
beta pictoris gallery is located at 2411 2nd Ave. N. Regulars hours are Tuesday-Friday 1-4 p.m., Saturday 11 a.m.-3 p.m. To make an appointment, call (205) 413-2999.