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Disparate images come together seamlessly at the Russell Collection's Confluence

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austin photo: news_aleks_russell collection_feb 2013
Matt Devine Courtesy of The Russell Collection
Russell Collection Fine Arts Gallery
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Artists Michael Kessler and Matt Devine’s work came together in the way many modern musicians record duets and featured verses: each completed their respective portions in isolation and then the producer — or in this case, eponymous curator Lisa Russell of The Russell Collection — stitched them together seamlessly, as if they were side-by-side from the very beginning.

Yes, when the gallery holds an artist’s reception this Saturday, the two, whose work pairs like long-lost siblings or separated-at-birth twins, will be meeting in person for the first time. Of course, their art is already well acquainted with the one another. After spending some time with their exhibit, Confluence, it almost wouldn’t make sense to see either artist's work without the other.

Maybe the title is too on-the-nose, but the moodiness-cum-texture of the show abides. Kessler, who has already enjoyed a storied career showing his nature-based abstractions in galleries across the country, including the Brooklyn Museum and at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, uses an elaborate, time-intensive process of paint layering and careful, Pollock-esque splattering to create his pieces.

Many of his paintings, displayed on wood and finished with a number of coatings, resemble fossilized plant life, while still looking modern and chic. And yet, taken against the clean walls and sleek lines of the gallery, there’s an almost rustic quality to Kessler’s paintings. He says he tries to navigate, or really, negotiate, disparate imagery and find the common ground, the common mood.

There’s a vibrancy to his colors, an evocative radiance to some pieces and when paired with Devine’s sculptures and installations, both take on a new life. Or perhaps, the life together they didn’t know they were missing.

Because there’s a certain prescience to Kessler’s modus operandi: he does bridge disparate images, just not always with his own work. Devine makes large, heavy, metal sculptures that live on walls and cut across space. They are textured, like floating thickets of briar patches; they quilt the walls, giving them a tactile quality.

Devine, a younger artist whose work has been catching the eyes of collectors and galleries (Russell says she unloads his pieces about as soon as she gets them off the truck), has fewer pieces on display, but they do more heavy-lifting — they serve as anchors, their splayed, latticework acting like a network that connects his and Kesslers paintings so that it looks like it's one giant installation.

Some of it is literal, like when the branch from the birds nest of Devine’s metal lines up almost perfectly with Kessler’s foliage-like ripples. But for others, it’s emotional transference.

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Confluence opens with artists reception Saturday from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Russell Collection. The exhibit will be on display throughout the month of February.

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