Boston Globe, November 12, 2013 by Cate McQuaid <Link to Original>
Low Key Charm
James Sterling Pitt’s sweetly humble show of drawing/painting/sculpture hybrids at Steven Zevitas Gallery features fairly small works made of carved wood and acrylic paint. Most of them have white borders with colored lines bumping and intersecting within them, often with two or three layers to add dimension. Their lines waver like those in an arch New Yorker cartoon; their edges are as pleasingly white as confectioner’s sugar.
“Untitled (Sand/Sea – Alameda)” contains within that white rectangle a front grid in yellow beige and a rear one in sunny blue. The grids match up only loosely, so blue peeks through yellow squares; they look syncopated. These pieces have a low-key charm, but the tensile possibilities of the lines never quite take off.
Occasionally, Pitt swaps out his carved wooden lines for wires strung with little painted wooden tabs, as in “Untitled (‘Bittersweet’ – 11-3-12),” which features imperfect orange circles dotting the wire. These pieces feel frothier and freer. The dots seem to dance and quiver; the wire slopes haphazardly from one side to the other. It looks like an abacus made by a first-grader, and has a freshness that Pitt seems to strive for, but not quite achieve, with his exclusively wooden works.
Pitt’s pieces attempt to capture events in his life, so you might say they have an underground narrative that we’re not entirely privy to. Background materials mention an encounter the artist had with a white peacock and later appearances of the bird’s image that led him to ascribe meaning to it. But filtering that meaning through abstract art makes it difficult for us to catch it on the other end. We can only look at the works through the rubric of art.