November 19, 2008
Furnishing Art: Sylvester & Co. Features Jim Napierala Abstracts
by Joan Baum

Amagansett - The Jim Napierala exhibit at Sylvester & Co., a rustic-elegant showroom of "modern, traditional and transitional" earth toned and textured upscale furnishings for the home, nicely complements the store's stated aim to "inspire creativity" and reflect "sophisticated taste." The gallery, a tradition started three years ago when Sylvester & Co. opened a store in Amagansett, has already attracted a clientele who come in for the art as well as the furnishings, notes Director of Sales & Marketing, Tim Kofahl.

"They've heard about a new show or they know something about the artist." He says he can spot them coming through the door of the restored 1720s farmhouse – "they have a certain look." They can see through the wide plate glass window a bit of what's on the walls, though, of course, but once inside, they're also attracted by the store's beige and brown products broadly distributed around the huge wood-beamed room. The same neat design sense informs the hanging of artwork – each of Napierala's dozen canvases has been given breathing room. Owners Elizabeth Dow and Lynda Sylvester certainly provide a lovely venue for artists who increasingly have fewer places to exhibit these days.

Created specifically for this exhibit, Napierala's acrylic on wood panel abstracts may seem at first to be collages, but they are in fact intricately layered paintings edge-cut with a razor. The technique has been likened to "drawing with a knife." The work is certainly distinctive. The paintings give off the appearance of fractured glass or shattered prisms. The more you look, however, the more you are surprised to see. A grid (not at first apparent) reveals something about structural control, but the number of layers astounds – typically between five to seven, some translucent washes, others solidly opaque. Underpainting and overpainting become indistinct.

Conceding that the process "may seen obsessive," the artist on his website speaks of a "Zen" quality to his complex and elaborate designs. Contrasts abound. He particularly notes his penchant for opposites in harmony – wanting to encompass "fluid versus rigid, gestured versus structured, ephemeral versus visceral" – and incorporating everything into a coalesced, "unified whole." Of his current work, on exhibit here, Napierala says it reflects his evolving style over the last few years, one that "references the history of painting as well as [his] personal philosophy." He cites as influences, Icons and Sienese painting, early Modernism, and Pollock's drip paintings.

Each of the pieces on exhibit - squares and large rectangles – has distinct color combinations. The two largest works, hanging near the showroom back door overlooking Amagansett Square, particularly exemplify Napieralas's signature style: a concentration of colorful geometric shards compressed into acute angles on a diagonal; an overall basic reliance on three, perhaps four colors, that take on different hues, depending on juxtaposition (a pink appears coral near yellow-white, a blue becomes mauve near silver); a metallic, iridescent silver sheen on several angled sections; contrasting colors on the periphery that then, once seen, are spotted throughout; mysterious dots, open and watery, tight and closed, that punctuate the entire surface, along with drips and swirls that curve over the sharp-edged shapes and soften the precision look. On some pieces pencil lines can be discerned. The color combinations are startling, but many of the cut shapes seem washed with a thin yellow-white pigment that generates a pastel effect. How ironic, or surprising, because pastel hues are not generally associated with bold colors and sharp-angles. Zen, indeed.

It's not all Napeirala at Sylvester & Co., however, in a side room, furnished as a bedroom, visitors can see a few of Wainscott-based photographer Mary Ellen Bartley's beautifully composed, atmospheric, matte finished shots of various scenes around the East End taken from her car. Called "Through The Windshield," the series yields painterly effects. Intended to frame the way light becomes "more diffused and the landscape distorted" when seen through a windshield, especially when scenes are "fogged or splashed with rain," these slightly blurred scenes appear as misty renderings of an imagination attuned to "indulgent watery romanticism."

The exhibit runs through Jan. 21. Sylvester & Co. is located at 154 Main Street, Amagansett, 631-267-6777, www.sylvesterathome.com