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New life for the old shop

Crocker's Mark Gallery

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Meredith Brickell's ceramics on display with Sarah Powers' paintings - PHOTO COURTESY OF STAN CROCKER
  • Photo courtesy of Stan Crocker
  • Meredith Brickell's ceramics on display with Sarah Powers' paintings
Crocker's Mark Gallery, open since October 2005, reflects a fascinating evolution. In 1948, Stan Crocker's father and grandfather established a lawnmower repair business in a brick and cinderblock building on Morgan Street near the Boylan Avenue bridge. After putting 30 years into the family-owned business, Stan Crocker decided he wanted a change of pace. "I wanted to keep our name on the shingle," he says. He creates metal sculpture and photography, and his lifelong fascination with the woodworkers and artisans in his own family inspired him to reopen the space as an art gallery.

With the expert advice of artist and freelance museum preparator Graham Auman (who's responsible for the elegant settings of artwork at NCSU's Gallery of Art and Design), Crocker set about remodeling the interior and fabricating pedestals and shelving. The result is a clean "white cube" (very pale gray, actually) space with a glass front that admits plenty of light while allowing a view of the work inside even when the gallery is closed.

This setting is the perfect foil for the sleek, attenuated ceramic forms of Meredith Brickell and Sarah Powers' paintings of minimalist horizons, whose textures and palettes pleasingly play off one another.

Brickell's idiosyncratic shapes are uniquely decorated with areas of matte and shiny glazes that often correspond to the way particular slabs are set into her hand-built forms. The result is a subtle glaze patchwork that responds to the structure of each piece. Lines as delicate as a tenuous pencil mark or subtly blurred watercolor travel across the body of the piece, rewarding an attentive exploration of surface. Brickell's shapes are uniquely curved at their base, giving a magical lifting, floating feeling to the works and the appearance of precarious balance, though each is in fact firmly rooted.

"Vessel I & II" are paired, 2-foot long, gently curving canoe-like forms. Their external decoration is a matte off-white glaze flecked with linear whispers contrasted against a sky-blue slip interior. "Narrow Rise," too, evokes a boat or cradle, its two mirroring halves--one soft blue, the other soft yellow--stretching expansively over 2 1/2 feet in length. The piece's horizon lines echo those in Powers' paintings.

Like Brickell's ceramics, Powers' paintings derive much of their interest from thoughtfully considered surfaces. Most are white-on-white with bands of color bisecting them, tangibly built of collaged paper, built-up gesso, graphite and even duct tape. Powers' earlier works contain landscape and architectural references, colored white with gray and occasional hints of lemon yellow and soft blue that mesh pleasingly with Brickell's color. Her latest works abandon the landscape referent and adopt a blazing streak of hot orange-red to bisect the canvases.

A handful of etchings by Brickell's husband, Ray Duffey, fit unobtrusively into the mix. "Bloom" even reflects some of the shapes and linear elements in Brickell's ceramics.

The show is a handsome offering in a promising new space, though Crocker says with a smile, "There are still people coming by with lawnmowers."

The show runs through Saturday, July 29.

Crocker's Mark Gallery is located at 613 W. Morgan St. and is open Tuesday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 3 to 5 p.m. (Wednesday until 9 p.m.), and Saturday from 1 to 4 p.m. For more information, call 612-7277 or 834-4961 or visit crockersmarkgallery.blogspot.com.

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