Their Faces Half-Concealed

Poster for Yūgen at Ghostprint Gallery

No doubt it’s been a hot summer, but step into Ghostprint Gallery and you can forget all about that. “Yūgen,” by Edward Kinsella III and Jeffrey Alan Love, is a cooling show that washes the summer away. Running along the west wall are Kinsella’s pale, hushed paintings of people captured in trees, snow, and more obscure coverings. On the east are Love’s layered, restless pictures of people and natural objects. As Kristina Keogh, a friend who went to see the show with me observed, each artist works in his own way with masks: one paints highly stylized faces, and the other half-conceals with veils of paint.

Kinsella uses graphite, ink, and gouache to create scenes that radiate a chill. Everywhere there is white space, some of it paper, much of it white gouache. He combines almost abstract shapes with delicately rendered hands and faces, mostly female, all taken to a place somewhere between kabuki and Javan masks. “Snow Mask III” is one of a series where varying amounts of gouache cloak the central figure’s face, the body a dark, reduced shadow beneath it.

Edward Kinsella, "Whiteout"

Kinsella’s “Whiteout”

“Whiteout” is breathtaking, one of a couple paintings where white space is more than white space, and a woman’s body is mostly concealed by a thick covering of white gouache. The sense of stillness is palpable, though her poise and still-living lips dismiss the possibility of death. You have to wonder what’s being said here about the covering of women, and how they may or may not thrive despite it, although you’ll be left with more questions than answers after standing in front of “Whiteout.” My personal favorite is “Dormant,” a small (7×7) painting of a face wrapped in a tree, the bark and branches as remarkable as any hair you’ll ever see.

Love paints in acrylic on panels, his subjects swimming in and out of focus: now more abstract, now more concrete. “The Shore” is of the latter variety, two feet filling the top of the canvas, with a skull-faced puddle beneath. “The Huntsman” is a strange, anxious figure, his features muddied as he stares at something over your shoulder, and a slash of white paint threatens to begin to wipe him away.

Love's "The Huntsman"

Love’s “The Huntsman”

Love’s work for this show spans a broader range of color than Kinsella’s, but not by much, consisting largely of red white and blue, with the thickness of the paint and lovely, ropy contours making his subjects come to life. “The River” adds yellow, with the sun bathing a woman at the water’s edge who appears reluctant to return to the shore, where the sunlight doesn’t fall, and in the distance a man and a dog stand waiting in silhouette. His subjects begin to slip more fully under the mask with “Three Wise Men” and “Three Mercenaries,” in each of which faces recede to blurs. Somewhere in the middle stands “The Witch,” my favorite of Love’s work on display, a woman whose face has begun to slip into something else, or perhaps to slip off.

If Yūgen sounds up your alley, get thee to Ghostprint Gallery — it ends Saturday the 28th. Ghostprint is at 220 West Broad Street, phone 804.344.1557, and hours are Wednesday-Saturday, 12-6 p.m.

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