Putting a bold new face on an established medium, the 132nd International Exhibition of the American Watercolor Society features 40 works that transcend and confound expectations of what a watercolor should be.
Gone are the pale washes, the floral portraits on paper and the vague, impressionistic style. These paintings are bold, bright and encompass a variety of styles and subjects. The exhibition makes its only Southeastern stop at the Gertrude Herbert Institute of Art, 506 Telfair St., where it will stay through June 23.
"This really is a big honor for us," said Amy Meybohm, executive director of the Gertrude Herbert. "This is an important show because it represents artists from across the nation. It also brings to light a specific medium and highlights different styles and possibilities."
Works include bold, expressionistic abstractions, somber portraits and painstakingly detailed cityscapes. In fact, aside from the fact that they hardly seem like watercolors at all, the works on display have little in common.
"Many of these paintings have a real thickness to the paint that we don't usually associate with watercolor," Ms. Meybohm said. "I think it really encourages us as viewers to think outside the box."
The exhibition includes a work by Augusta artist Caroline Swanson, titled Symphony of Light. Ms. Meybohm said that the Augusta connection probably played some part in the Gertrude Herbert landing the show.
"I'd say that certainly was part of the decision," she said. "But I think it was also important to the American Watercolor Society to have the works seen by people outside of the larger areas, like New York or some places out West. They wanted a greater variety of people to be able to see the show."
Ms. Meybohm said that having the show should help the Gertrude Herbert bring similar high-profile traveling exhibitions to town.
"Potential exhibitors always want to know what you've shown in the last year. Having had this exhibit here can only help us," she said.