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Can Painting Be Saved?

   Dwayne Carter - Page 11 - Midway to Madness

Dwayne Carter   Page 11 — Midway to Madness   2012   banner print   67 x 45 inches

While the output of Big Brand painters may fetch stratospheric sums on the auction block, it cannot be said that painting, as an art, continues in any but a zombie afterlife, caught between hobbyist-fetishdom & the diminishing need to propagate a curriculum. Grumble as one might, surely those who leapt into advanced technologies first were at least crazy in the right way. Dwayne Carter has been into the Matrix of Photoshop for so long now that his cultural moment seems to have arrived, the fraying curl at the tip of Hokusai’s tsunami.

Dwayne Carter - Page 29 0 Midway to Madness

Dwayne Carter   Page 29 — Midway to Madness   2012   banner print   67 x 45 inches

His present show, from 1-9 to 1-27 2012 at Richland College’s Brazos Gallery, can’t be described as either a fotonovela/graphic novel or a suite of painted (digitized, altered, redigitized & enlarged) images that overlap in content; it is clearly both, or rather the twin manifestations of an ongoing process that uses collage, photographs, drawing, painting & computer manipulation interchangeably. It’s hard to talk about (which he did for one hour on the night of the 12th) but easy to grasp when you’re surrounded by it. For it is very close to the way that our distorted, chopped-up, mediated world must be read by us today: nightmarish, blurred except for areas of super-intense detail, always in motion, never quite without sense.

Dwayne Carter - Page 19 - Midway to Madness

Dwayne Carter   Page 19 - The Midway As We Know It Ends When Hope Dies   2012   banner print   67 x 45 inches

For a long time high art eschewed narrative, on the foolish grounds that that sort of stuff should be left to the groundlings. Happily, the prejudice no longer obtains. Going on several decades now, artists have been running out of the myth-shop with their arms full, like looters at a citywide riot (& maybe they were). I see Carter’s work as inhabiting the convergence of two movements from opposite ends of the spectrum. On one side, his fine-arts ancestor is clearly Rauschenberg; on the other, the simmering dissatisfaction with mainstream comics which can conveniently be bracketed with RAW magazine of the Eighties. The miracle is that this work manages not to lose touch with either end. It has the vitality of mash-up culture, but also the refinement of contemplation.

Dwayne Carter - Midway to Madness study

Dwayne Carter   Midway to Madness   study   2011   mixed mediums   $100 each, willing to entertain offers

Just as popular media tolerate, more & more, the lapses or leaps which used to characterize the avant-garde, it takes little effort to imagine what these stories lost. They retain their mystery, & would work just as well if arranged in any other order. The artist himself compared them to cards in a Tarot deck, & I think this makes an apt metaphor for how narrative is being used in the early 21c. It’s a structural device.

Dwayne Carter - Midway to Madness study

Dwayne Carter   Midway to Madness   study   2011   mixed mediums   $100 each, willing to entertain offers


My earlier misgivings about the effect that unlimited ease of manipulation would have on his painting have turned out unfounded. Although there does exist the temptation to keep tinkering with an image until it denatures, in practice this means that when new ideas occur, they can be saved at any intermediate point, so (unlike a stabile oil painting) the “alembicated” style (which drove the Impressionists outdoors, howling) never has that deadly finality in a digital work. As Dwayne remarked about returning to work with a paintbrush, “I sometimes forget there’s not an UNDO button.”

The show, “Midway to Madness,” in book form makes the second part of a trilogy. You don’t need to know this, & it might be better that you don’t. There’s a lot more to come, & the part you thought you understood has already been changed.


More stories by Michael Helsem.

alembicated - (of a literary style) excessively refined; precious     excessively stylized

Hokusai's Tsunami - link - According to Wikipedia, "The waves in this work are sometimes mistakenly referred to as tsunami, but they are more accurately called okinami, great off-shore waves."

Images provided by originating artist Dwayne Carter — and variously tweaked by Dwayne and J R


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