Cooperation of Pleasures: The Paintings of Julie Evans and Barbara Takenaga
On view through Dec. 21
Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art
Simons Center for the Arts
54 St. Philip St

1. A new name: In an effort to distance itself from stuffy, passive art galleries, the Halsey Gallery has changed its name to the Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art. The new, progressive name is reflected in a sparse show; the space dares to bare, with more wall space left blank than usual.

2. The poster art: If you’ve seen the flyers for this show, then you’ve had a tiny glimpse of its abstract world. From a distance, the flyer looks as if someone’s dripped luminescent liquefied Jello on a piece of paper. Up close, patterns emerge and the two pictures complement each other with their detailed circular shapes.

3. New York style: The exhibit, Cooperation of Pleasures, brings two New York artists to Charleston, and with them a taste of the present state of abstract expressionism in the Big Apple. Barbara Takenaga makes imaginative, colorful spacescapes using forms that twist and fold with trance dance determination. Julie Evans constantly experiments with Indian painting materials, including the miniature triple hairbrush. Then she uses her own perspective to add an accessible American twist.

4. It’s worth the trip: Concurrently systematic and organic, Takenaga’s paintings aren’t as symmetrical as they first appear. The trails of spheres and stars build a tunnel effect, but the end of the tunnel is raised so that the viewer’s attention is drawn upward and outward. If this gives you vertigo then the painter’s happy — she wants to create a sense of movement and stretched space.

5. At 70 by 60 inches, Takenaga’s “Little Egypt” is one of the most impressive paintings in the show. Golden planetoids collide with subatomic shapes, melding inner and outer space.

6. New colors: Inspired by her journeys through India, Evans has brought mineral pigments back with her that we aren’t used to seeing here. Muddy gouache flows over bright acrylics, creating dark greens, stark reds (“Red River Extract 1”) and vivid pinks (“Desert Saris”).

7. Big ideas: With her love of Indian miniature paintings, it’s no surprise that Evans’ canvasses are small. But there’s a lot going on in those little landscapes, with rippling water, shadowy buildings, and lots of bindi — the traditional jewelry worn by Indian women, particularly on their foreheads. Evans has a wealth of ideas to explore, from the meditative effects of mandala forms to the muck in the Ganges River.

8. Nostalgia: Every 10 years or so, the Spirograph comes back into fashion as a fun kids’ drawing tool. Evans picked up a cheap one on a trip to India and started creating simple, delicate designs with the toy. To make it less like a school art project, she used handmade paper, added bindis and outlined the spirals with gouache. The most successful, “Spiros and Bindis,” are the more complex pieces, with circles and colors complementing each other on a white background.

9. Evans’ “Pahari Landscape” has a circular focus, overlapping blue waves and a curtain-like border, creating an appealing proscenium effect.

10. The guest curator of this show is New York bigwig (and CofC grad) Brian Rutenberg, who will be contributing work to this week’s abstract show at the Eva Carter Gallery. He’s passionate about his chosen genre, describing Cooperation as an indication of what’s being looked at seriously in New York, with art that “bursts with luminosity and unpredictability.”