Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Un-Paintings at Art Palace

Robert Boyd

Art Palace on Main St. is having a series of quickie exhibits, and the one they have up now (through July 29) is Standard Deviation, a group show put together by Jim Nolan.  I spoke with Nolan on the opening night and he told me that the show, which includes work by him, Linda Post, Katy Heinlein and Mick Johnson, was about painting without painting. It seems paradoxical, but if you know Nolan's work, it makes sense. And you can see the relevance of the concept to all the pieces in the exhibit.

Katy Heinlein, Double Loser, 2012, fabric and wood, 40" x 10" x 34"

Katy Heinlein, Double Loser, 2012, fabric and wood, 40" x 10" x 34"

At first, I was puzzling how Katy Heinlein's work, such as Double Loser, was related to painting at all. It's three-dimensional work, made of cloth. Then later, I was chatting with fellow Pan blogger Dean Liscum, and he mentioned that Katy Heinlein's works were like Russian constructivist paintings in space. Yes! Or Ellsworth Kellys in space.  (But that's not why I liked Double Loser so much--I think it appealed to me because it had the feel of an old-timey voting booth.)

Linda Post, LOW IMPACT (WINDOW), 2012, HD video, 5 minutes, 13 seconds

The relationship of Linda Post's LOW IMPACT (WINDOW) to not painting is more obvious. Here is a window covered with filmy white stuff (soap?) that has a somewhat painterly presence, and  Post is wiping it away. She is un-painting the window.

Mick Johnson, Terminal Love, 2009, rubberized paint on MDF, 24" x 24"

Mick Johnson, Career Opportunities, 2009, rubberized paint on MDF, 24" x 24"

Mick Johnson's wall of monochromatic paintings are, well, actual paintings. But they are the opposite of painterly. When you approach them in person, the surface doesn't look like paint--it looks like rubber. The works each have their own composition, but that design is in the physical structure, the way the MDF was cut and assembled. The effect, especially when grouped together on a large wall, is impressive. (Fans of old school punk rock will enjoy the titles of Johnson's paintings.)

Jim Nolan, Plywood Painting, 2012, photo on canvas, 36" x 24"

Plywood Painting by Jim Nolan continues a kind of work he has done before, where he finds a piece of non-artistic but painterly painting, photographs it, and displays it as a painting. He did this with his Palisades Paintings, which I have discussed before. Here we can hypothesize that a worker was trying to get excess paint off his brush or testing a color, perhaps at a construction site. Whatever the origin, Nolan apparently snapped the photo and printed it onto canvas. Nolan has produced all the elements of painting without actually painting anything.

The work in this show will strike some as a bit austere. It's not exactly eye-candy, and conceptual concerns tend to trump visual ideas (although not in the work of Heinlein or Johnson necessarily). Telling you to come see this show feels a bit like telling someone to eat their broccoli. But the thing is, even though I like eye-candy just fine, I like eye-broccoli, too. If you subsist on a diet of eye-candy alone, this probably isn't the show for you. But I loved it.

(Disclaimer: I am totally biased here. I like Post's and Nolan's work enough that I have pieces by both artists. Keep that in mind as you assess my objectivity.)


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