Exhibit puts fine line on Rice's art


Edward Rice can draw a straight line like nobody else. In his celebrated architectural paintings, lines that may at first seem straightforward come together into meticulously crafted images that are at once simple and complex, calm and intense. Notable for their sometimes startling expression of light and shadow, his paintings also embody a pervasive sense of history.


More than 40 of his paintings created since 1982 are featured in an exhibit titled Preservation of Place: The Art of Edward Rice, opening this weekend at the Morris Museum of Art.

The opening event will be Friday, Aug. 26, from 6 to 8:30 p.m., with a Blue Studio concert, hors d’oeuvres and libations, and a book-signing. Admission to the party is $10 for museum members, $15 for others, and reservations may be made by calling (706) 724-7501. The show opens to the public on Saturday.

Rice grew up in North Augusta, maintains his studio there, lives in Augusta, and has been an important figure in our arts and cultural community for close to half a century. Such a scenario might lead one to tag him with the often-dismissive term, local artist. But Rice is honored and appreciated both at home and abroad.

We have watched him grow from the schoolboy making sketches of neighborhood houses (it paid better than mowing lawns, he has said), to the widely respected painter with a mature grasp of his art. His work is now in public and private collections around the world, even appearing in a recent television promotion for Ron Howard and Canon Project Imagin8tion.

Much has been written about Rice and his fascination with architectural structure and detail, and the way he depicts both classical and vernacular with studied attention.

In regard to the Morris Museum exhibition, director Kevin Grogan said “his painterly skills and the instincts of a serious architectural historian have combined to create a body of work that is noteworthy for its elegance, precision and devotion to the telling detail. His depiction of the obvious and the forgotten, the historic and generic – the often overlooked – is more than a simple architectural record. These images haunt the imagination and mirror the lost architecture of the old South. They preserve a sense of self as much as they do sense of Southern history.”

The show is accompanied by a 96-page illustrated catalog with essays and commentary by Martha Severens, former curator of the Greenville County Museum of Art; David Houston, director of the curatorial department at the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Arkansas; and Jeffrey Day, South Carolina art critic.

Severens notes that Rice paints a world that is “distilled, quiet and clean. It is neither surrealist nor photorealist. It is a world he encourages the viewer to enter, to bathe in glorious light, under cloudless skies, away from the hectic pace of modern life.”

Writer Jeffrey Day says that while Rice’s architectural paintings appeal to a wide range of viewers, “they are hardly just pictures of buildings. He manipulates scale, color, size and surface in a manner that provides visual and intellectual nourishment for those who have an in-depth knowledge of art.”

This is not the first time Rice has exhibited at the Morris. His paintings have been part of the permanent collection from the beginning, and a group of his monotypes were shown in 2003. It is, however, the museum’s first solo exhibition of his paintings.

Several special events are scheduled during the run of the show, including a panel discussion Sept. 25 and private tours with the artist in November.

ALSO ON THE CALENDAR: Greater Augusta Arts Council members will tour the studio of artist Grady Abrams this evening and then head to Prime 1079 Steakhouse at the Sheraton Hotel for dinner. Call (706) 826-4702 for information.

• Next week, the shops at Midtown (Kings Way and Central Avenue) will launch their fifth year of First Thursday celebrations. Featured artists for September at Midtown Market will be Marion Owens, Lee Ann Hagler, Elizabeth Moretz-Britt, Wendy Cunico and Mary Louise Nechtman. Randy Lambeth will be showing at 5 O’Clock Bistro, Susan Harris Johnston at Crum’s on Central, Nancy Cannon at the Cottage on Central. Tim Conway Photography will host Gabe Marshall and Stephanie Forbes. First Thursday events begin at 5 p.m.

LOOKING AHEAD: Sacred Heart Cultural Center’s gallery will feature works by Judy Gillespie and Ginny Griffin, with an opening reception scheduled Sept. 8 from 5 to 7 p.m.