These are really two separate shows: J Clayton in the front gallery and Michelle Bolinger in the smaller project space behind it. But the two abstract painters have so much in common while complementing each other so well, they beg to be considered together. Both of them are painting the good life. There’s no angst, anger, bad memories, self-loathing, or really any drama at all. Nor are there conceptual puzzles for a theory of art to explain. These are visualizations of a pleasant, sufficiently prosperous life in a peaceful country. That’s what most clients expect from architectural design, so this kind of painting is probably an extension of J Clayton’s earlier career in that field. Her large paintings feel less like paint on canvas and more like a symphony of colored light in space.
The results are expand-your-mind psychedelic and the small areas of color resemble the size and shape of pharmaceuticals, so there’s a suggestion of “better living through chemistry.” By contrast, Michelle Bolinger’s smaller paintings seem to be looking at the world, almost like snapshots of a sunny motor trip through Midwestern hills, highways, lakes and estates, though with nothing in sharp focus except for the edges of her paint brush. And while Clayton’s designs move outward from a meditative center, Bolinger’s pull in from the outer edges of experience. Indeed, in one piece, all she paints is an outer frame. Neither one is interested in spontaneous expression, but both are obsessed with making each mark just right, as Clayton executes her pointillism or as Bolinger is sanding and repainting to perfection. Both are crafting comfortable, well made homes for the imagination. Both are also explorers, with each painting a different adventure with every painting, though not an especially dangerous or revelatory one. (Chris Miller)
Through November 24 at the Riverside Arts Center, 32 East Quincy, Riverside