Art: Our Small Private Stories

Twelve21 Gallery's newest show features the work of Robert and Carla Poindexter

Simply Elegant - One of Robert Poindexter's ink-on-paper drawings
Simply Elegant - One of Robert Poindexter's ink-on-paper drawings

Our Small Private Stories

Through May 6 (artist's reception May 3, 7-9 p.m.)
Twelve21 Gallery
1221-C N. Orange Ave.

It can feel a little bit daunting to go look at art hanging in someone else's workspace - Are you an intruder or a welcome diversion? What's the etiquette when you want to look at a piece hanging over someone's desk? Is it weird that you're listening to the employees chatter while they go about their business and you're looking at the stuff on the walls? - but when a gallery curates and hangs shows as well as Twelve21 Gallery, located in the offices of Laughing Samurai Creative Agency, the payoff usually outweighs the temporary discomfort.

That's certainly the case with the gallery's latest show, Our Small Private Stories, which features the work of Carla and Robert Poindexter. The collection of ink drawings, etchings, watercolors and acrylics is the work of two individuals but the pieces hang together so seamlessly that upon first glance, it can be difficult to tell where the work of one artist ends and the next begins. Closer inspection reveals that, although the color palettes and styles of the two complement one another, the approaches to creating art are unique.

Carla Poindexter, an associate professor of painting, drawing and book art at the University of Central Florida, is a master of detail. Hanging in this show are enough pieces for three shows by the artist, from watercolors of flowers and plants from her Botanicals series to hand-colored etchings from her art book, The Devil at the Door, to intricate, whimsical charcoal drawings and studies. The body of work here is diverse, but the pieces share a common thread: control of medium. Whether it's the hatchmarks in an abstract etching or the carefully executed florets of a coneflower under a wash of watercolor, the technical precision seems effortless. Her drawings are so detailed they look deceptively chaotic, her botanicals so simple they look like quick studies (especially since they're painted on plain watercolor paper, out of context as if torn from the ground and laid upon a table to examine).

Robert Poindexter's pieces consist of acrylics, sketches and studies, ink drawings - much as with Carla Poindexter's work, there's enough here that it could easily be separated into several distinct shows - and many also have that deceptively simple quality, too. But unlike Carla's pieces, Robert's work is less controlled and more abstract. His landscape pieces - "Summer Cornfield with Scarecrow," for instance - are awash in bright color and primitive form, and the artist's hand, revealed in thick brushstrokes or color, becomes just as important an element in the work as the subject itself.

But it's the most abstract of Robert Poindexter's works hanging here that really astound in both their simple execution and complex subject matter. The artist has created a series of black-ink-on-paper drawings that almost look like inkblots on paper. But within those inky blots are images and figures - skulls, faces, children, crowns - and when compiled, they almost tell their own lyrical stories. The drawings that make up the Happy Families series for instance, are both joyful and somber at the same time, full of chubby, infantile faces intertwined with glimpses of death and hints of sorrow.

"The improvisational works in watercolor and ink on paper are my visual poems," Poindexter says in his statement on the gallery's website. "If I could write, my words would read like these watercolor paintings, if I could create music, my music would sound like my ink drawings, with all their joy, with all 
their sadness."

Somehow, that emotion in Robert Poindexter's work - that joy and that sadness illustrated in the freedom of his brushstrokes and forms - is well balanced by the more measured and studious works by Carla Poindexter. That's probably due in part to the fact that the artists in Our Small Private Stories share a story of their own. The Poindexters were once married and are now cordially divorced, and the curator of Twelve21 Gallery - Sara Poindexter - is their daughter.

"I've chosen to not explain too much about their relationship or their relationship to me in hopes that the concentration can be on them both as individuals, and so that their art can be viewed without any prior expectations," Sara Poindexter says.

An understandable impulse. But even without knowing the dynamic between the artists, a viewer can't help but notice how the works complement one another, how they play off one another, that there's something more going on than just two artists who happen to share a gallery show or a last name - that the artists do indeed seem to have a small, private story that they're telling via art.

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