Jennings' work reflects the city

Jennings' work reflects the city
By Doug MacCash
Times Picayune

Fans of painter/sculptor Jeff Jennings' work will not be surprised by his current exhibit at Marguerite Oestreicher Fine Arts, but they will be delighted. The 35 small pieces are a continuation of his attempt to meld two distinct influences.

On one hand, Jennings, who teaches art at Louise S. McGehee School, is in love with the appearance of New Orleans' antique architecture. Its textures of cracked and peeling paint, exposed wood grain and the sometimes jarring color combinations are dear to his heart. "My material comes from here," he said. "I want to absorb my surroundings and put it in my work. You can see the passing of time, the history of the object. You can't divorce yourself from that."

But Jennings isn't satisfied with local color for its own sake. His aim is to blend the literal appearance of the Crescent City with pure abstraction. "My work is still about surfaces," he said, "but I've moved away from architecture. I'm not trying to replicate it any more. The work in this show is a little more abstract..."

Jennings' new work is quietly excellent. His painted wooden rectangles, vertical wooden columns and empty wooden squares (abstract windows) are gorgeous formal designs that can be enjoyed for the combination of shape, texture and color alone. Or they can be appreciated as poetic symbols of Big Easy architecture. The upstairs room of the gallery, which has been painted a warm gray for the occasion is crowded with Jennings' varied shapes, resulting in an abstract environment that, if you use your imagination, could be a distilled version of an old New Orleans neighborhood.
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