Dick Goody brings the Goods — Review: Idealizing the Imagery: Illusion and Invention in Contemporary Painting
Great jazz musicians explode with individuality. You recognize the chords and the rhythm, but then the musician improvises and makes the song his or her own. The artist’s restlessness and spontaneity allows him or her to communicate truthfully with their audience, because the artist engages fully with his or her emotions and is not hampered by rules –yet the artist knows the rules. In my walk-through of Idealizing the Imagery: Illusion and Invention in Contemporary Painting, I felt that I was experiencing a great jazz ensemble.
In curating the show, Dick Goody created an environment that showcases the strengths of his handpicked artists. He put together an emotionally spirited ensemble where each artist has the capacity to drown the other out, yet he was able to present these artists in a balanced and compelling show. Mr. Goody focused on artists (mainly represented by blue chip New York galleries) that experiment with materials and avoid (for the most part) object-focused artwork. The majority of the pieces do not make demands on the viewer that require outside references; instead, the pieces are a study of the artists’ internal makeup that an emotionally open viewer can appreciate.
Because many of the pieces he chose flourish through texture, this is a show that must be seen in person to appreciate. The successful pieces in the show have dynamic nuances that do not translate to photographs of the show. For example, I was not particularly moved by a photograph of Bye Baby Bunting, which was the anchor piece of the show (prominently displayed on the catalogue’s cover).
I initially reviewed Mr. Goody’s catalogue for the show, and I (despite knowing better) formed an opinion about the show and certain pieces before I saw the show in person. When I reviewed the show in person I (happily) found that several of my negative pre-conceived ideas about the show were crushed.
British artist Cecily Brown painted Bye Baby Bunting. Ms. Brown is probably best known for her abstract paintings that have strong figurative/sexual imagery (flesh toned imagery flows in and out of focus and compels the viewer’s voyeuristic tendency to stare at the veiled flesh). Bye Baby Bunting does not posses her familiar figurative references; yet she does continue her control of the viewer through brush strokes, contrasts, and focal points. Bye Baby Bunting is a piece that entrances the viewer and forces an exploration of a scene that seems to echo the emotions and conflicts in Michelangelo’s The Last Judgment.
Wendy White’s Tietz painting flanks Bye Baby Bunting. Tietz is a calming piece that compliments Bye Baby Bunting’s frenzied energy. In Tietz, Ms. White creates serene imagery through sharp-edged areas that seem to be mysterious letters and dates that escape a light blue background, which Ms. White tones down through her use of blacks and grays. Sections of the mysterious letters/number reach the foreground of the piece in confident way as if back-lit by sunlight. To add to the mystery, she adds a child’s small toy soccer ball to the painting.
Kim Dorland’s Ghost (Deer) piece adds another quiet roar to the show. While Bye Baby Bunting is the show’s anchor piece, I was particularly moved by Kim Dorland’s Ghost (Deer). I think that this piece really captures the absorbing nature of seeing this show in person. In Ghost, Mr. Dorland used oil, glitter (glitter!), and string on wood panel to create a deer that glows, and somehow he imbues the deer with an ephemeral nature that evokes a feeling that you are catching this image just before it leaps off of the wall.
There were some works that I found either flat or overworked, especially in light of these more dynamic pieces. The above artists know how to stand on the line of overworking a piece and not go over. I think that Trudy Benson’s Stellar Evolution goes over the line. This painting has layers of enamel, acrylic, and spray paint over a careful grid. It has heavy references to the 1980s in its grid use and color scheme. Her use of texture was intriguing, but I found the overall piece too busy. (Let me know your thoughts in the comments.) I also thought Katherine Bernhardt’s Blood Orange Juice provides an unfinished idea, yet her Nomads and Tents in the Atlas Mountains provides an interesting dialogue about de-skilling and formal patterns. There are a couple other pieces that I believe give too much credence to the artist’s sensitivity. For example, a piece may highlight a texture or concept but then it ignores the necessity for a finished piece of art that can have a deep impact on the viewer.
Taken as a whole, this is an engaging show that a viewer has to see in person.
This exhibition runs through April 1, 2012, and the gallery is open every day (except Mondays) from noon to 5pm. All events free. The gallery is next to Meadow Brook Theatre, on the Oakland University campus, Rochester, MI 48309, exit # 79 off I-75, (248) 370 3005.