In the galleries: Using heat to create several kinds of artworks

Peter Kephart has a singular technique, yet it yields several kinds of artworks. The West Virginia artist begins by roasting moistened cotton-rag paper over hot embers; he sometimes likes the results so much that he stops there. “Setting the World on Fire, One Painting at a Time,” at Zenith Gallery, includes several small works from the “Dominican Sunset” series that are merely charred. In other pieces, Kephart uses the scorched surface as the basis for elaborate paintings — often landscapes but occasionally abstractions.

The distinction isn’t always clear: The heat-swirled curves of “Abstract Natural #2” suggest a female torso. A few pictures, so painted that the burns that inspired them are barely discernible, include such realistic touches as a beached rowboat or a cloud-speckled blue sky. After it’s burned, the paper leaves jagged edges or outright voids, and Kephart highlights the absences with backing sheets, often red, whose color shows through.


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