Thursday, June 17th, 2004. Tacoma, WA (USA) in

by Apu

I went out for a walk in my PJ's and flip-flops and entered instead, the Brick & Mortar Gallery right next door in downtown Tacoma. Inside, I found a visual treat. Abstract pieces flowing from the stream of unconscious momentum; witty social critiques hanging all over the walls! Amidst all this art, I found a real visionary literally running the building so as to speak. Laura Hanan loves abstract xpressionists who are inspired from within and compelled to create non-representational art. Having initially been pulled in off the streets by the pimping work up on the wall, I soon had two names I was searching for. Amongst all the razzle-dazzle and wine sipping crowd, I found them: Ric Hall and Ron Schmitt. Ron was talking to Laura and seeing me dressed like a bum sipping orange soda from a glass jar, I must have got his interest. We started talking and he pointed me in the direction of an elderly man sitting on a couch. Ric Hall certainly looked disgruntled enough by this kid and I was running my mouth. Wish I could have told him then what I see in his and Ric's work. The biting social criticism. The witty narrative underlying each frame. And the dark cartoony film noir lighting. No wonder the finest cinematographers turn to painters to truly understand a time, place and culture. I was filled with questions. Why did they tell that karaoke singer he aint' good enough to be the lounge singer he wants to be? How long has that suit been resting his head in his hands all stressed out in despair? Why can't that solicitor stop trying to sell his suit and talk real and proud with his head in the air? Is his heart really in his corporate suit? Why does that hardworking waiter have to keep straining his neck to fit into all ya'll's frame? As I struggled to put to words the connections, I understand why Ric & Ron get frustrated by the inability of speech to convey visual ideas. The attention to detail puts this work on another level. Laura showed me how, for example, the first time she looked at Couple Exposed -- which features 5 naked women sitting in some turkish bath place-- she never saw the two women in the foreground holding hands. Once I saw that connection I noticed fear in the eyes of the women in the background. Why does the background fear those loving each other openly in the foreground? On the walls of the Brick and Mortar Gallery right now are real people. People you and I probably know: workers, lovers, people with bills to pay, hypocrites, awakening artists. You never know how enlightening glancing into a mirror in an art gallery can be unless you go there and do that. Ric and Ron take about three to four hours to create one of these frames. They joined forces in 1983, when I was only one, and have been pimping since then! "Show me" is what they said to each other and their work really communicates that collaborative spirit of being in dependence and free. "Theres so much emotion and thought put into it", says Leslie Bernard and I agree. Writes Ric [to me vial email], "I have a dream of a show with one hundred and fifty pieces. Wouldn't that fill a room with emotion, color and images of the human spirit bared to all in attendance?" All in all, there are 21 scorching works of social criticism from them and more up on the walls in downtown Tacoma. The urge to connect and communicate and the barriers -- less material and more mental -- clearly come across from the paintings as a whole. They are so powerful, that they can and do stand as expressive jewels of hurt on their own. The style unites them all under one big family and if we know they are connected we should keep telling the paintings that too. I felt like I had walked into a movie theatre playing "La Jetee'" except with more characters. When I visited the website I learnt there are so many more. Laura says Ric & Ron have done some 800 works. I can't wait till I can afford to have a storyboard of Ric & Rons soft pastels hanging up on my wall. Check out the art at the Brick and Mortar Gallery in downtown Tacoma and the Schmitt and Hall Studios online.