Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Art in bloom at Opalia Flowers

By Meredith Deliso

Opalia Flowers is just bursting with color this time of year — burnt oranges, fresh greens, sharp yellows and bright blues — and it’s not just because of the flowers.

The Atlantic Avenue flower shop hosts an exhibition of paintings by Ken Rush, a Carroll Gardens-based artist who has been capturing cityscapes and landscapes for decades, opening this Thursday.

“I was looking for something fresh and different,” said Phoebe Crary, owner of the five-year-old Boerum Hill florist-turned-temporary gallery. “It seemed like a good fit. He’s so prolific.”

The show spans Rush’s career for the past three decades, from his landscapes in Vermont and Massachusetts to his cityscapes in Venice and Brooklyn. It’s called, aptly, “Places.”

“Location has always meant a lot to me, and this show is emblematic of that,” said Rush, who, ironically, is very much a “lifer,” living in Brooklyn for 40 years and teaching art at Packer Collegiate Institute in Brooklyn Heights for 33.

Of the 30 pieces hanging among the peonies, orchids, tulips and roses are his Vermont cottage houses, Massachusetts fields, and moody recalls of the canals in Venice. There’s also on-site portraits of the Gowanus Canal, which is “like a Venetian canal, albeit very polluted,” said Rush, who, during the 1970s and ‘80s, used to set up shop at the Hamilton Avenue bridge or at the edges of the canal itself and paint.

“I love artists like Edward Hopper and Charles Sheeler, and their approach to urban and industrial areas,” said Rush. “I have always been attracted myself to interesting industrial areas, in part for their mood, which is always somewhat forlorn.”

The subway was one of his first subjects when he moved to the city in the 1970s, offering a similar forlorn quality. One series involved bringing his easel down to the Hoyt-Schermerhorn subway station, setting up on the closed platforms, often used for film shoots, and capturing the darkly lit station and its passengers.

“They’re very urban, not happy subway paintings,” said Rush, who is very much the opposite of these dark portraits, with his boyish enthusiasm and energy.

For the past 15 years, the artist’s work has focused on conceptual landscapes — places recalled from memory or a feeling that don’t necessarily exist, but are still very much familiar to the urban dweller.

“I try to achieve a kind of universal feeling about a place,” said Rush. “You might look at one of the urbanscapes and say, ‘I know where that is.’ But you really don’t.”

“Places” by Ken Rush at Opalia Flowers [377 Atlantic Ave. between Hoyt and Bond streets in Boerum Hill, (718) 643-9160], May 12-June 10, with an opening night reception from 6 to 8 pm.

Photo by Tom Callan

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