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The Alternate World in John Pomara

Story by Katja Zimmerman

Photographs by J R Compton

John Pomara - Citi-bank

John Pomara  -  Citi-bank, 2007
Lambda photo on aluminum  -  JP#283  -  47 x 72

John Pomara is a science fiction painter. I really mean a painter of alternative realities. I do not mean a painter of futuristic décor. This is not a case of the paintings one would set in Spock’s cabin on the Starship Enterprise. One averts the eyes from that sort of future pretense; it shames us with its pallid assumptions, especially about the arts. No, John Pomara is making the fiction of an alternate, and perhaps parallel, world.

John Pomara  -  Bites-bytes (detail), 2007
digital video and flat screen monitor  -  JP#287  -  run time 2:37

You might be fooled by the near-high-tech materials, like the honeycomb metal panels he paints on – fooled into thinking that he was making accessories for the future, a time that is always tightly sleek (before the apocalypse anyway). The panels seem to be necessary only when his fictional materials simply have to have supports that are hard, glowing dully under them. The Lambda photographs seem to live well in the surface of the aluminum (works like Citi-bank, 2007).

Pomara’s fiction tells of a world where air and milk may be of the same opacity. There, spatial depth may be unpredictable. Perhaps I am looking down and perhaps I am looking up. Architecture may be too small to enter. What I am convinced of is the fictional part. All of this is a genuine world made up by the artist. Finding this in it makes the work eerie. Ut in ars sic in vito: if there is an alternate world in his art, then is there an alternate world in John Pomara?

John Pomara - (detail)

John Pomara  -  Outer-limits (detail), 2007 detail
oil enamel on aluminum  -  JP#281  -  36 x 48 inches

The finest fiction in the show at Barry Whistler is the video, Bites-bytes, 2007, where a story of the alternate universe is played out very quickly and enjoyably. Pomara’s adoption of photography and video seem honest, a move into a less scary medium than painting. After all, paint has its heart in the mud of this world, and is poetic, but not, in itself, fictional.

Pomara’s sweet color fields make for delectation, but they are not quite complex enough for his ambition. I await the invention of a purely Pomara color. Remember the cobalt that was Yves Klein blue? One perfect color to capture the “visual condition of urbanism,” that Pomara wants.

What John Pomara likes, he says, is a “graphic painterly state of appearance.” While painterly is a word that never crossed my mind in relation to his work, graphic appearance is obvious. I want to reject the reading his work as notation, a score, and therefore, a world in which life looks like directions, or like writing, to us, the earthlings. Rather, Pomara’s regular little beings are narrative. And this has a chance to go beyond the outmoded old glories of conceptual art.

October 2007

Digital Dating, Barry Whistler Gallery, Dallas, October 20 to November 24, 2007

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