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Double Vision

The inner and outer worlds of Jerry and Terry Lynn.

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In "Rhythm & Roots: A Love Story," at David Lusk Gallery, identical-twin painters Jerry and Terry Lynn combine surrealism, psycho-social portraiture, highly energized abstract gestures, and their own brand of impressionism. The result is work that celebrates the individual and his ability to imagine no matter how limited his circumstances.

The Lynns, who work together as the singularized "Twin," tell just enough of the story to allow allegorical, thematic, and personal readings. For example, the 60-by-48-inch acrylic painting Lonely is skilled portraiture and an autobiographical nod to the artists' childhoods in which a preteen Jerry or Terry turns away from an adult-male figure dressed in overalls and standing in a cotton field. The young artist's posture and gaze are penetrating, yearning. Thin, crisp lines curl about the painting, suggesting the dreams and goals which are gestating in the youngster's mind as well as the pubescent energy dancing around the lower part of his body. The adult figure could be a fading but important memory when a young man realizes he wants something different, something more.

A preacher with a crisp white shirt and neatly tailored suit stands in front of a church in Burn. The ground around him is molten red and violet, the sky is brimstone white, and burnt-yellow flames lick the windows and roof of the church. Even as the clapboard building burns, the preacher looks beyond the loss at the viewer and the work that remains to be done.

In the mixed-media work The Beginning, slender white-and-black lines and high-key pinks, violets, blues, and yellows swirl around the expressionless face and slumped shoulders of a man dressed in a rough brown garment. This juxtaposition of the intensely colored, abstractly gestured background and the enigmatic central figure characterizes many of Twin's collaborations. These works are particularly open to interpretation. Above the man of The Beginning, stark-white lines join in what looks to be a ribbon banner. The banner is not filled in but could very well proclaim the man an "Unsung Hero." Or is he a more personal figure? Perhaps "Granddaddy Charles," a hardworking Southerner who told tall tales and sang spirituals?

The 36-by-36-inch acrylic Forever can also be read in several ways. This painting's semi-abstract subject could be a vision of a dark-haired fairy dressed in gossamer surrounded by violet-blues and transparent wings of fireflies. The painting also suggests the lowered, shadowed head of a girl lost in a daydream or the elongated face of an insect breaking out of a silk cocoon.

Early Rising, a seamless integration of background and foreground and one of Twin's most haunting works, depicts a woman picking cotton at dawn. The muted colors of early morning, the shadowed stand of trees toward which she walks, and the exaggerated curvature of sky make magic seem more possible as Twin transforms the long sack dragging the ground behind the laborer into a wedding gown and her slow walk into a processional march.

Included in the exhibit are 200 of Twin's smaller paintings (sizes ranging from 5-by-7 inches to 20-by-16 inches), which allow the viewer to witness an artistic evolution. Quickly executed cartoons and deliberately crude quasi-folk-art caricatures serve as studies for the exhibition's larger, more formal portraiture. In the lexicon of Twin, Holla and Gangsta are not pokes but gently comedic notings of the exaggerated attitudes of stereotyping.

Wanderer and White House are small works of compressed energy and evocation. The central figure in the 14-by-11-inch acrylic Wanderer is utterly still, expectant. She contains decades of patient waiting. Her arms are gently cradled at the waist of her white muslin skirt, the folds of which are masterfully rendered. Her deeply shadowed face and the dark umber background heighten her isolation. The 10-by-8-inch acrylic painting of a clapboard church, White House, dissolves in a Turneresque landscape of hazy light and color as the two brothers pool and reconfigure memories of the intense rites of passage they experienced in a rural church just outside Memphis.

With their skilled draftsmanship, genuine feeling, and melding of artistic styles (more apparent in this show than ever), there is much to admire in Twin's "Rhythm & Roots."

"Rhythm & Roots: A Love Story" at David Lusk Gallery through January 29th

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