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index of Michael Helsem reviews

Cutesy-Sinister Assemblage, Angst Domesticated, Art School Foolery, Ode to Cadmium Red + Bank Lobby Modernism

Heather Gorham - If You Could Look Inside My Head

Heather Gorham - If You Could Look Inside My Head, 2005
bronze, wax string - 13 x 9 x 10 inches

 

by Michael Helsem
with photographs by JR Compton
 

I WAS ON MY WAY TO  Craighead-Green to check out David Crismon, whose postcard had looked promising, when i stopped into Cidnee Patrick (), new to me in name if not location, next door. There i was happy to find two excellent, longtime Dallas artists sharing a show: Heather Gorham & Frank Brown.

Definitely a contrast.

Gorham has rather the edge: her cutesy-sinister wood & bronze assemblages, of a high technical finish & somehow both Victorian & postmodern at once, project a sensibility that is subacid Goreyesque.
 

Frank Brown - Threshold 2, 2003
48 x 24 inches

 

Brown, whose trademarked style seems hardly to have altered one iota in the ages since i saw it last — unless to exchange noir luridness for the calm (albeit dim) light of day — still freezes contemporary, surreal tableaux in a formal inexpressiveness, as if silenced opera, where even the neon-splashed & carefully limned forms (think Thomas Hart Benton) contribute to the secrecy.

Angst, domesticated.

detail Frank Brown's Waiting

detail  Frank Brown - Waiting, 2003
oil on canvas, 36 x 60 inches

 

THE ONE I LIKED BEST was a congeries of seven sheep, Waiting, each with throbbing, almost angry eyes, & isolated on maybe a mountaintop with coiling clouds behind.

And the sunset hues of pink, lilac, apricot & Naples yellow — candy assortment all, but just as lovely as the world at such times actually is — perhaps remind us that the secret awaits, & other than what we dread...

 

David Crimson

David Crismon - Dutch Still Life
oil on metal - 44 x 22 inches

 

Crismon (), though, turned out to be less than spectacular.

Basically he takes Old Masters & reproduces them (badly) in sections that don't quite line up. I can almost see doing this once as an exercise. And he does sort of capture the overall tonality. But it leaves us yearning for real perfectionism & real belief like the originals uncomplainingly delivered.

Oh, Picasso "devoured" a couple of pictures by Velasquez, & Bacon by Greco, precisely in the way a primitive tribesman would eat the heart of his enemy — but there's no blood in this, it's sheer art-school foolery.

I can't help but think if this artist had seen a real Vermeer & wanted nothing but to travesty it, he should go watch The Girl with the Pearl Earring in order to grasp the fact that their world was just as crazily murderous & unjust as ours — & yet they did not lie about beauty.

Adam Shaw - Birth of a Star

Adam Shaw - Birth of a Star
oil on canvas - 54 x 100 inches (diptych)

 

In the adjoining room, Adam Shaw has some fairly restrained exercises in the Abstract Expressionist vein. Unlike the daffy geometricism of MADI (which could be subtitled "so Out, it's In") this has become too familiar to even rouse much expectation one way or the other.

His Birth of a Star appeals to me like any ode to cadmium red would — but its best passages are those in which another pigment predomintes.

 

Magh

Rob Douglas - Magh

 

Meanwhile, i would be remiss if i failed to mention something i stumbled across in the back. On the whole, i have mixed feelings about the school of squeegee painting.

When a 17c. artist poured a uniformly shiny coat of protective varnish on his painstakingly relief-less brushwork, it was the last step in a complicated ritual designed to defeat time.

The same sort of surface today, resembling nothing so much as the rain-treacherous marble of a bank lobby floor, has only the effect of an anxious fastidiousness, or an unmotivated rejection of most of the textures of Modernism.

NEVERTHELESS, i believe that no tool, from chewed twigs to naked girls dipped in Yves Klein blue, should be ruled out in advance. So i thought Magh by Rob Douglas one of the best squeegee paintings i have ever seen (& in Santa Fe there were a hundred of them).

02 22 04

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