The Currier Museum of Art has two very smart, ambitious landscape painting shows up. Transcending Nature: Paintings by Eric Aho and Cristi Rinklin: Diluvial, which is part of the museum’s Contemporary Connections series. The Aho exhibit traces the last 10 years of the artist’s career, a time in which he has become increasingly abstract in his depiction of the New England landscape. Alongside paintings with sly modernist references in the black trapezoids of holes cut in the ice, or the simple flat planes of farmhouses, Aho has many works here that depict elemental forces. In the painting above, “Ice Field,” he foreshortens space, as if to imperil the viewer with the cracking shards. There’s a great plate of ice dominating the middle of the painting, flip-flopping between form and void with its white blankness. But other whites shade to blue or refract green and yellow. This artist used to paint outside. Now he makes sketches there, and goes to his studio to let them percolate, and what he comes up with is some mixture of what he saw, his own internal perceptions, and the smear and stab of oil paint. The studio has liberated him.
Rinklin has taken over floor-to-ceiling windows with a translucent mural that has the cartoon verve of anime and references to Leonardo’s “Deluge” drawings. The glowing mural — it recalls a giant flat screen as much as stained glass — careens with crisp foreground images of looping ribbons of water and clouds. The mountains, which run along the bottom and make a blurry row in the middle ground, were cadged from Bierstadt. She titles the piece “Diluvial” after geological deposits in the White Mountains. In the 19th century, they were believed to be remnants of the biblical flood. Now we know them to have origins in glacial melting. With the recent news that sea levels along much of the East Coast are rising more quickly than in other places due to climate change, Rinklin’s watery work is particularly timely.