Hobbs, who teaches painting at Washington & Lee University in Lexington, VA, and who currently has an exhibit at Hodges Taylor Gallery, creates works that range from the significantly abstract ("Winter Storm (Road to Warm Springs)") to rather concrete images ("Road Construction," which actually includes painted concrete pipes in the picture).
His work doesn't stop you in your tracks and call to you with its boldness; his paintings are more subtle than that, pulling the viewer along. It's the kind of art that demands, and rewards, taking some time and making the effort to delve into. The rewards can be rich.
Hobbs' subtlety, in fact, is his major artistic strength after his skillful brushstroke. For instance, in "Crossroads Early Morning," note that he barely uses two healthy brushstrokes of red paint in this rather large canvas. However, the red dot on the convenience store sign and on the utility pole, as well as a few streaks of red in the sky, make the image pop and draw us to it.
When you're at Hodges Taylor, out of the corner of your eye, look outside the gallery windows at the trees around Transamerica Square courtyard and you'll experience the way Hobbs sees.
It's interesting that Hobbs' work is on display at the same time we can view works by Manet and Monet from Baltimore's Walters Collection at the Mint Museum. Even though Hobbs is creating impressions, his work is different from the French Impressionists. Where Manet and Monet were focused on painting what natural and artificial light looked like, Hobbs' subject is the captivating paint mark.
His subject is also the America he knows, unpopulated. Yet even though his pictures don't contain people, there's no feeling of isolation or loneliness; that's because his images strongly connect to the willing viewer, as they stir memories of places we remember and frequent.
Hobbs usually paints horizontal images; however, two of the most interesting pictures here are small verticals. "Monhegan Island (Tree and Surf)" and "Monhegan Island (Cliff and Sea)" both show an economy of brushstrokes to create majestic fragments of landscape.
In the horizontal picture "Last Snow," he does something very interesting. He has a wide expanse of messy snow coming straight at the viewer, turning this horizontal panel into a "T" shape.
There's a lot of rhythm in Hobbs' brushstrokes, and it's interesting to learn that he listens to Eric Clapton, Sting and Guy Davis while he paints. He also has a great interest in gardening and feels that his landscapes are directly related to it.
Also exhibiting at Hodges Taylor is painter Judy Jones, who teaches drawing and painting at the University of Georgia in Athens. Her large, square-shaped oil paintings seem heavily influenced by Oriental art in their delicacy of curving line and muted colors.Jones says she is painting "details of a larger world." The way she arranges flat shapes on the surface of her pictures makes them "read" like maps, which is appealing. Unfortunately, there's a sameness in her images so that when they're placed side by side, they tend to cancel each other out.
Most interesting here is "Lost & Found II." Jones' painting features as a subject things secured, painted with an assured, light touch. Mapped out for us on a gold background featuring red brushstrokes are a key on a ring, a latch, a button fastened to cloth and a fine wire that is twisting back on itself. All of these items are secured under the song of a wise bird painted in the lower left corner.
The exhibits by Frank Hobbs and Judy Jones run through January 3, 2004, at the Hodges Taylor Gallery, 401 North Tryon Street. Gallery hours are 11am-6pm Tuesday through Friday and 11am-3pm Saturday. For additional information, call 704-334-3799.