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Visual art

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In the galleries: Legacies, light and loss

By Barbara Schreiber

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Paradise Lost

Ruth Ava Lyons’ recent paintings are filled with intimations of water and aquatic life. They are evocations, not depictions. Most are named for places – Fukushima, Cumberland Island – threatened by disaster, greed or obliviousness.

Hovering over these vulnerable places are elements that, inspired by Lyons’ interest in sacred geometry, are metaphors for humankind’s relationship to nature.

Most are executed in warm colors. A notable exception is “Great Barrier Reef,” a rich, cool painting with coral outlined in gold leaf and geometric shapes representing carbon dioxide particles. Lyons completed it after her recent artist residency at Heron Island Research Station on the Great Barrier Reef.

These paintings are dreamy and mystical, but they also warn of what could happen or has already come to pass. They are images of a world that may be too late to reclaim.

Hidell Brooks Gallery; hidellbrooks.com; 704-334-7300; through April 26.

Darren Douglas Floyd

Is Darren Douglas Floyd playing a role or being himself? A tenderhearted viewer of his compelling video works might hope for the former, but suspect the latter.

This exhibition’s title piece, “Destroyer of Dreams, Or, Container of All Future Meaning,” a 20-minute testament to Floyd’s alienation, episodically tracks his movements across three states and various academic jobs. In it, he ruminates about loss, particularly the loss of love and a family of his own. Floyd nests moving images within other moving images in a way that underscores his self-involvement and despair.

Shorter pieces jump across past, present and future as Floyd looks at photos from allegedly happier times, celebrates a new but likely doomed romance and sends a message to the future children he may never have. He often posits love and art as mutually exclusive. Having cast his fate with art, he has lost out on love.

Theoretical and technical aspects of these complex video pieces are addressed in the small catalog accompanying the show. But the main thing to know is that these sad, funny, squirm-inducing works may be difficult to view, but are well worth the time you invest in being with them.

Van Every/Smith Galleries, Davidson College; davidsoncollegeartgalleries.org; 704-894-2519; through April 13.

Thresholds

Richmond-based architect Quynh Vantu’s exhibition is a brief journey through a series of sensory experiences.

“Silence Thresholds” and “Hot and Cold Thresholds” guide the viewer/participant first through acoustic foam-lined portals that muffle the building’s ambient noise and alter the air pressure and then through portals lined with floodlights or small fans.

In “Light and Haze,” the exhibition’s final segment, visitors enter a darkened gallery, where projected light slices through fog.

What at first appear to be simple projections of lattice patterns on the dark gallery walls are transformed by the movement of people through the space, revealing panels, funnels and corridors of smoky light.

Don’t rush through the space or you’ll miss the experience. Those who slow down, acclimate and remain curious will be rewarded.

McColl Center for Visual Art; mccollcenter.org; 704-332-5535; through March 29.

30 years

Jerald Melberg Gallery is celebrating its 30th anniversary with an exhibition of work from the artists it currently represents – the living and the dead, the famous and the not, the international and the local. There are several – among them Romare Bearden and Ida Kohlmeyer – whose work the gallery has handled since it opened.

The yearlong anniversary observance includes a lecture series, beginning April 24, 7 p.m., with ARTnews editor and publisher Milton Esterow at the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art.

Jerald Melberg Gallery; jeraldmelberg.com; 704-365-3000; through April 26.

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