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Posted at 9:30 AM ET, 12/14/2010

Stovall Finds Colors that Dance

By Jacqueline Trescott
Lou Stovall's "The Fire Within"

For years, Washington master printmaker Lou Stovall has explored the depths of color.

He is a natural heir to the Washington Color School, and his new show pays homage to those inspirations and his courage at mixing colors to find something news. This year Stovall has pushed himself to go much deeper. In "No Edition: Painterly Prints," now at Addison/Ripley Fine Art, the result is a raucous saturation.

Walking through the show just before it opened last Saturday, Stovall talked about his new direction. "I just wanted to explore the depth of color. This work is about energy, movement, saturated color and the love of color. It is not about matching or not matching," said Stovall, a compact man, wearing a custom-made black Stetson. Now 73, Stovall has been an active leader within the city's art circles since the 1960s.

"Sweet Memory" is a rolling field of red, inspired by the candy of collective childhoods. "One of my favorite colors is red. As I went along, it had less to do with candy but a response to something enjoyable," Stovall said. "I start by putting out all the inks. There are 28 basic colors available to printmakers. I start mixing and may get 40-50 colors." The reds range from scarlet to bright crayon to magenta.

Looking at the new work, Stovall said, "I feel it is a moving, visceral performance. I'm hoping to appeal to the imagination."

And the work does move, almost dancing, and the impact brings the viewer closer to the work. "For myself, I put them across the room and if it looks like a complete image, I go on," Stovall observed.

He learned from the late James Porter, the art historian and chairman of the art department at Howard University for many years, that an artist has to learn when to stop. "He said when you have an idea, you don't destroy it by overworking it," Stovall said. "But you don't stop thinking."

In his studio Stovall always has music playing. He stops in front of "Roses IV," one of 3 silkscreens of the flowers. "I was playing country/western at the time," he explained. The resulting canvas is a layered quilt of flowers, with the movement of a country dancer's crinoline petticoat. But then he went another step and he experimented with placing the pattern in a geometric form. It resembles skyscrapers filled with flowers. Stovall cut the prints and then placed strips on wood and then on a canvas.

Though he said he enjoys "making something appear to be there and not be there," he thought it was obvious in one print

that people were crowded together on a street. His wife, artist Diane Stovall, said it looked like confetti. It is now called Confetti (Upside Downside.) "I know how to listen," Stovall said.

The show continues through January 22.

By Jacqueline Trescott  | December 14, 2010; 9:30 AM ET
Categories:  Jacqueline Trescott, Washington artists  | Tags:  Lou Stovall, Washington Color School, Washington Galleries, Washington artist, printmaker  
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