Review – Father and Son: The Legacy of Randy and Lyon Hill

review_lyonBy Kara Gunter

Lyon Forrest Hill, who’s been with the Columbia Marionette Theatre for the better part of two decades, is well-known in Columbia as a maker and animator of puppets; but Hill is also a trained painter and printmaker, and son of the late artist Randy Lee Hill. Now until the end of February, viewers can see the work of father and son side by side, at West Columbia’s Gallery West in Father and Son: The Legacy of Randy and Lyon Hill.

Randy Hill, a veteran South Carolina artist– having worked both in Columbia and Charleston– passed away recently in 2013 and left behind some very iconic images (and some atypical ones, as well) of the Southern landscape. It’s likely you have seen at least one reproduction of Randy Hill’s Charleston landscapes, as his painting Early Charleston has graced the cover of the official Charleston guidebook for many years, and is included in this latest exhibition.

In this exhibition, one sees the origins and evolution of Randy Hill’s work, and as the father is revealed, we also get a peek into Lyon Hill’s development. RL Hill’s later work of the Low Country is saturated, rich in detail and highly realistic, albeit with the occasional impressionistic quality; but his earlier work is clean and cool, a bit minimalistic, stylized and illustrative. Indeed, the illustrative or narrative aspect was passed along to son, as Lyon Hill’s work seems to want to tell a story, and could almost stand as individual frames from a storyboard from one of his animations or plays.

Intriguing is the use in both father and son’s work of the lone heroine. More a character in a story than a specific woman, she’s portrayed more as archetype– embodying concept, rather than a figure study or investigation of form or beauty. Sometimes, as in Lyon Hill’s work, she is dark and lonely, and in Randy Hill’s screenprints she is all pop and color.

The landscapes of father and son complement each other nicely, and I began to wonder if the two ever painted in plein air together. Seeing the same landscape painted by the each of them, side by side, would be a treat for the viewer. Their styles are similar, yet distinctive. Lyon Hill brings emotion, strong delineations and texture, while Randy Hill’s landscapes are more atmospheric, concerned more with light and space.

The exhibition is an eclectic one, as one would expect when exploring forty years of work from one artist, and that of his son’s. Traversing cultural styles from the 70’s to the 2000’s, we see trends in color, transformations from simplicity to realism, from strictly 2-dimensional works to those that incorporate texture, from fruit to figures to landscape. There is something here for everyone, and it’s nice to be able to share with Lyon Hill in the remembering and influence of his father.

Father and Son: The Legacy of Randy and Lyon Hill closes February 28th. Lyon Hill will be performing A Day in the Park with Mr. Seroff, a performance of puppetry at Gallery West on February 10th. Space is limited to RSVP’s only. Call 803-207-9265 for more information about the exhibition or performance, and to reserve your seat.

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