Mary Gow’s stark, affecting abstractions fascinate

Quality art is often not the rule at coffee shop exhibitions. Mary Gow’s unique, highly professional abstract work on display at Muddy’s is a rare exception.  

The exhibit consists of 10 pieces, monotypes interspersed with mixed media. In the monotypes, Gow unusually seeks perfection in a form that attracts many artists because it is typically characterized by a level of unpredictability.

Gow’s sense of design is particularly strong. Form and color are varied, and her placement of forms is fascinating.  

A lack of conventional beauty or prettiness also characterizes her work.

While Impressionist painters such as Renoir, Van Gogh or Toulouse-Lautrec created their work to give visual pleasure, that isn’t the case with Gow’s art, which has a starkness that gives the pieces strength, as well as a feeling of directness — a sense of coming straight to the point without frills.

The austerity also adds to the already startling quality of the pieces.

Contrasts are high in her work. For example, “Cityscape” is a lengthy, staid, quiet piece. Set against a background of richly shaded green, the imaginatively juxtaposed forms are intriguing and have a depth of meaning that becomes apparent after lengthy viewing.

“Between Two Moons” has movement. A thick, curved, green horizontal line streaks swiftly across the glass against a yellowish gold background.

Gow’s work is part of the abstract art tradition which developed in the late 19th and early 20th centuries when many artists felt literal graphic representation didn’t adequately express feelings they were experiencing. Like her predecessors, Gow showcases a reality that is impossible to illustrate in any other way.


Mary Gow

Muddy’s Coffee House, 1304 Valencia St., San Francisco

When: 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily; closes Feb. 28

Contact: (415) 647-7994;

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