Seven Years Later: Recent Paintings by Patrick Servedio
On view through July 17
City Gallery at Dock Street Theatre
133 Church St., 958-6459
Yellow Cake
On view through July 30
The Columbus Street Art Gallery
81-A Columbus St., 853-9517

Seven years ago, College of Charleston grad Patrick Servedio left Charleston to study at St. Louis’ Fontbonne College. By 2001 he was back in Hanahan with an MFA in painting and a couple of juried exhibits of his oils fattening up his portfolio. Since then he’s been working at Gallery Chuma on John Street, painting his way out of an abstract period and into a more traditional series that caught the eye of Charleston’s Office of Cultural Affairs. Now the City Gallery at Dock Street Theatre’s showing art that Servedio describes as a “visual diary” of his activities over the last year or two.

“I identify with objects that can release the expressive energy in me,” says the artist. “For example, making marks while looking at flowers correlates with the way I express myself.” Once he’s found something to get him going, he subtly adds extra touches that give the work a stamp of individuality. “I tend towards making traditional paintings, and I’m constantly aware of not having them look too traditional — I want to push it a little beyond that.”

In his charming solo show, Servedio achieves exactly what he’s set out to do — providing a glimpse of a parallel world where traditionally balanced colors and muted backgrounds are invaded by grim-faced siblings and weird-shaped fruit that looks about as tasty as a tennis ball.

The still life “Yellow Pear” exemplifies the artist’s subtly subversive urges. The pear is the brightest object in the painting, but there’s a lot more to this piece than one wonky fruit. Lines crisscross the canvas like the creases in a bedsheet, adding extra depth and linking the room with the objects it contains. “Green Chair with Blue Blinko Bowl” makes similar tracks, more pronounced this time; despite its vivid color, the bowl is barely there, mingling with the dirty white seat of the chair.

“Studio Clutter with Flowers” has a unique ambience, using dull colors to depict a duskier time of day. As in “Blinko Bowl,” Servedio’s mark-making isn’t always meticulous; parts of a bookcase are hinted at rather than faithfully re-created. In Servedio’s world, hues are almost as important as solid shapes, and moods are suggested with straightforward lighting schemes.

“Misty’s Brother” is the only portrait in the show, standing out from the still life crowd. This matronly figure with a harried face doesn’t want to be there — the cheeks are ruddy, the hands folded on the lap, and the lower lip’s stuck out far enough to land a plane on. The colors of the figure and the background meld in places and messy dark blue strokes around the head help to suggest the subject’s mental state.

“Misty’s Brother,” along with Servedio’s geometrically-surfaced, inedible-looking fruit, echo the artist’s earlier abstract work and help to make this show stand out from the regular, traditional fare.

Yellow Cake is another new show that stands out, not just because of its art but its location as well. On the outside, the business center on the corner of Columbus and Hanahan streets doesn’t look like much of an art space. Inside, however, enterprising local artist James Smart has converted some of the walls into the striking Columbus Street Art Gallery, profiling a different East Side artist every month, backed up by more pieces contributed by Smart and others.

Yellow Cake features Cassandra Jenkins, who creates mixed-media reliefs with a predomination of aged wood. Simple, smooth-skinned figures help to build an innocent feel to her work that evokes the unstoppable passage of time. The pieces encompass childhood, bold feminine subjects, and music, with the bonus of some vibrant coastal backdrops.

Tiffany Shine presents a selection from her acrylic Truth and Transitions series, changing ultra-symbolic rooms and doors with different color schemes. The darker colors effectively create a claustrophobic mood, while the brighter ones are open.

Smart’s paintings are the most impressive in the show, with soft, abstracted shapes and intentionally vague portraits that use novel composition and lush colors to attract the eye. “Forest People” focuses on seven ghostly figures outlined in passionate purple, glowing amongst the flora. Other tree spirits hide in the background, while from a distance brown tree trunks seem to grow and become more visible. “Our House is On Fire” shows bridges, waterways, and landmasses with lively outlines and sun-cooked hues.

The Columbus Street Art Gallery’s address is shared by Pastors, Inc., facilitating housing for low-income and first-time buyers in the area via the City’s Homeowner’s Initiative. By giving new and underexposed artists a place to show their work, Smart has furthered the business center’s aim to increase community ties, while also proving that any blank-walled building can become a gallery. Best of all, he’s saved the center’s staff from the curse of having nothing but Wal-Mart-bought prints to gaze upon.

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