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Back and Forth

Twin: The journey continues.

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In a recent phone interview, Jerry and Terry Lynn, identical-twin artists who paint together as the singularized "Twin," spoke of their Southern roots, religious faith, and some 21st-century challenges, including the havoc caused by Hurricane Katrina and the violence in Darfur. Their new exhibition, "Twin: Paintings & the Story" at the David Lusk Gallery, bears witness to the ongoing struggles of humankind.

At first glance, the acrylic on canvas At the Sea looks like a group of Creole women dressed in white gowns and turbans standing at water's edge performing the rite of baptism. But the acidic yellow sky looks rancid, a dark red sea is filled with rust, earth, and/or blood, and dead tree limbs reach across the top of the painting. In Twin's apocalyptic landscape, the baptizers stand at the edge of a dying world.

Paint jabbed, impastoed, and flung across the top of The Journey: Refugees explodes above seven men and women, all in profile, who appear to move slowly, resolutely across the bottom of the painting. A patchwork of color becomes the hats, shawls, skirts, and shirts of this line of refugees whose will to go on in spite of chaos makes this poignant image a reminder of the more than 20 million people displaced in the world today.

The artists build complex metaphors and rich narratives in this body of work. For instance, in their retelling of the Genesis creation story, In the Beginning: Early Morning, a small white building that represents the church the artists attended as children (a recurring motif in Twin's paintings) also looks like a medieval castle. Clouds surrounding the fortress-like church look heavy, pregnant with moisture. The aerial perspective, somber colors, fortress, and stormy sky depict a cosmos full of cataclysmic energy and mystery reminiscent of El Greco's View of Toledo. As a final touch -- one that feels free of satire or kitsch and full of respect for the unadorned power of the rustic -- a large black rooster in the foreground stands guard over the primeval scene.

There are masterful passages of understatement in Twin's paintings as well as images that roil. In The Temptation, another work based on a story from Genesis, tiny flecks of white and touches of umber on a scumbled brown background successfully suggest the stubble of a cotton field, the face/turban/bodice/skirt of a woman, and the shirt and trousers of her companion. Ousted from Eden, these two minuscule figures walk across a stark, barren world.

Women dressed in long white dresses have served as archetypes in Twin's paintings throughout the artists' career. In Strength: Manna, five iconic figures stand in a field as impressionist as Monet's haystack series. Gallery lights reflecting off collage elements (frayed bits of burlap and dried grasses) suggest a harvested field and the loose weave of the women's muslin dresses. The dark featureless faces of the figures contrast sharply with a landscape bleached out by noonday sun. The central figure's large frame, stooped shoulders, and muscular forearms draped across her broad, skirted thighs speak of hard work, endurance, patience.

In the Garden speaks of grace in the face of hardship. Two women dressed in wide-brimmed straw hats and long muslin gowns appear to glide across a landscape lathered with green and brown pigment and a splatter of white cotton bolls. A closer look draws the viewer into the strata of this 75-by-129-inch vision of a cotton field as Eden. It depicts the same fertile delta on which we stand.

With white paint in one hand and pink in the other, Twin poured, splattered, and looped multiple layers of pigment across the surface of Isaac's Everlasting. There is no Isaac, no Abraham in the painting. At the center of this pink and white jubilation, a dark-skinned Sarah, dressed like a bride in the exhibition's whitest-whites, looks full of hope and confident that life will go on.

The twins are also skilled portraitists who, early in their careers, painted large canvases of sportsmen and musicians. Instead of stylizing the figures in Trio, the artists capture the nuanced body language of three honky-tonk players, dressed in Panama-style hats and brown Sunday suits, bending over their guitars -- strumming, listening, keenly aware of the sounds they are making. Shades of electric blues and smoky indigos envelop the musicians. Bits of frayed burlap and dried grasses collaged onto the surface of this huge (approximately 6-by-9-foot) painting bring to mind wooden floors strewn with debris tracked in by laborers who have come to hear music that is both a hallelujah and a wail.

At David Lusk Gallery through January 27th

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