Dishman hosts ‘Cohabitation 2022’ through March 3

Director Dennis Kiel looks at “Bubbles” by Mayuko Ono Gray which is on display at the Dishman Art Museum, Jan. 22-March 5. Photo by Andy Coughlan

A visit to Lamar University’s Dishman Art Museum will challenge the viewer to unpack a series of exquisitely-detailed experiences. Husband and wife Mark Greenwalt and Mayuko Ono Gray’s exhibition “Cohabitation 2022,” on display Jn. 22-March 3, is a visual feast that rewards close inspection.

“The ground around a lighthouse is always dark” by Mayuko Ono Gray is on display at the Dishman Art Museum, Jan. 22-March 5.

Upon entering the museum, one’s eyes are drawn to Gray’s large graphite drawings. Gray, who is Japanese, was trained as a child in calligraphy, before training in classical Western drawing as a teenager. Gray earned her MFA at the University of Houston, and her works draw on her experiences as she assimilates into American life.

Her calligraphy training is evident in the complex swirling lines that wrap around and through the images of daily life — mundane objects, her cat or her husband — and the abstracted shapes literally dance through her work. Many of the lines are shades as if they are tubes that are intertwined, some are even kinked like a garden hose that has not been re-wound.

“42” by Mayuko Ono Gray is on display at the Dishman Art Museum, Jan. 22-March 5.

Gray’s works are beautifully detailed with layer upon layer challenging the viewer to disassemble the intricacies of her life experiences. Often, the background image is broken into squares or circles. “Bubbles” is an enormous picture of a cat, measuring 10-feet across. The calligraphy-inspired lines twist themselves into bubbles as the cat watches, somewhat suspiciously one feels.

The beauty of the large works is one can really see the technique, as the graphite is swept, cross-hatched and shaded. Gray is truly a master of her technique, and paired with the almost surreal tubular line work, the pieces are both awe-inspiring and meditative.

“Blind Date” by Mark Greenwalt.

Greenwalt’s work could not be more of a contrast. The couple’s work may share walls, but they are no matching pair. Greenwalt’s works are quite small and in equal measure fascinating and disturbing. However, he shares a mastery of technique with Gray, with the people depicted in a classical style. Leonardo da Vinci drew a series of grotesque and deformed faces, which until the 18th century were among his most copied works. Greenwalt seems to have taken a page from Leonardo’s sketchbook, twisted it up and turned the strangeness up to 11.

“Self Portrait as a Cockroach” by Mark Greenwalt is on display at the Dishman Art Museum, Jan. 22-March 5.

Greenwalt, who like Gray teaches art at the College of the Mainland in Texas City, populates his world with creatively-imagined deformities. Heads grow out of heads, grow out of hands. Noses seem to split, with their constituent parts heading in different direction. The characters would not be out of place in a David Lynch fever dream.

But there is also clearly has a sense of humor at play. “Blind Date” is hilarious when paired with its title. It is like every joke about Tinder profile pic versus reality. The “deformities” in this tintype-inspired image are fewer than in some works, but the seriousness of the pose adds to the comic effect. The formal suit and tie break down to geometric shapes, as if the whole façade is breaking up.

“The Transit of Venus” by Mark Greenwalt is on display at the Dishman Art Museum, Jan. 22-March 5.

“Self Portrait as a Cockroach” is exactly what it seems, although Greenwalt is not searching for flattery in his image. Apart from the distorted nose, his face looks stoic in the face of his Kafkaesque metamorphosis.

Apart from the brilliance of the couple’s technique, there is little to link them thematically. But the juxtaposition of the ridiculous and the sublime makes for a fascinating show.

The Dishman Art Museum is located at 1030 E. Lavaca on the Lamar University campus. Hours are Monday-Friday, 9 a.m.-4 p.m., and Saturday, noon-4 p.m. For more, visit la-mar.edu/dishman.

This story originally ran in the Jan. 21, 2022, Art of Living section of The Beaumont Enterprise.

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