``Drollisms and Dichotomies,'' drawings and paintings by Dick Ibach at Linda Hodges Gallery, 410 Occidental Ave. S., through March 3, 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday, 1-5 p.m. Sunday, 624-3034. Watercolors by Mari Anne Figgins at Louise Matzke Fine Art, 413 First Ave. S, through March 2, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesday-Friday, noon-4 p.m. Saturday, 622-2540.
Quick, cross your eyes. Yes, that's pretty much the cock-eyed view of reality taken by Spokane artist Dick Ibach, a former Jesuit brother, gravedigger and cabinetmaker turned artist. If you tend to take Lent a little too seriously, the paintings and drawings Ibach offers at Linda Hodges Gallery this month are likely to loosen a smile, at the very least.
In his first major Seattle showing since 1986, Ibach treats of everything from the Stations of the Cross to the ``baby tornadoes'' whipped by the wind through the wide-open spaces of the Inland Empire. The pictures have in common, however, a technique of jagged lines in vibrating color contrasts. It's like being in a room full of ripple afghans crocheted by a grandmother who always did like things bright - not too relaxing, maybe, but certainly full of energy.
Ibach delights in a variety of fool-the-eye techniques, but he plays fair. In one painting, an oar with oarlock is the clue: The shimmering pink surface they're attached to is concave, and thus is a vessel ferrying through the busy waters of the composition. In ``Bless
Me Father, for I Have Sinned,'' priest and suppliant are separated by a jazzy red gulf. Their upraised hands are sketched with the same brown, yellow and brown, however, so a connection must have been made despite the distance between sinner and absolution.
One Ibach series is especially fitting to the artist's theme of seeking out the ``drollisms and dichotomies'' of existence. ``How to Tie a Fish Hook'' is among several pictures with an ``instructional'' theme; it shows a man struggling with a hook grown suddenly huge, like something out of ``Alice in Wonderland.'' So do we all struggle, Ibach seems to suggest, with the tasks that tax our skills and our humanity.
While the heat of an Eastern Washington summer shimmers through Ibach's pictures, cool curtains of snow and moonlight drape the scene in several of the watercolors by fellow Spokane artist Mari Anne Figgins on display at Louise Matzke Fine Art. In fact, the snow spills right out of the picture and across the surrounding mat in ``Sunny and Snowing,'' a group portrait of a herd of Holsteins by an intelligent realist painter with her own bit of whimsy.
The subjects - kittens curled in a basket chair or perched on a fence, for instance - are saved from sticky sentimentality by the artist's strong sense of structure. In ``Moonlight Shadows,'' a chair's fabric pillow provides cross-hatched lines to contrast with vertical wicker strands.
Like the French Impressionists of a century ago, Figgins understands how color perceptions vary under differing conditions. Ask the gallery to dim the spotlight rheostat on ``Glowing Goats,'' and see how the purple shadows turn precisely right at a certain intensity. Figgins also demonstrates in two paintings of zebras how ``white'' and ``black'' are often anything but that.