Sunday, April 09, 2017

Todd Mckie: Divine Comedy



Don't Look Now, But I Think We Have Company, 
2015, flashe on canvas, 20x16"
courtesy Gallery Naga



You might say that Todd McKie has the best of both worlds, that he is a wonderful painter who also makes us laugh. That his paintings are modern day frescoes by Giotto, on a mission, infused with the Holy Spirit of comedy.



“The Terrible Burden of Beauty” (2007)



And of course this is true. But what is also true is that he carries a double burden because of it, to make something special in paint, and to make it funny. One is hard enough. Two is darn near impossible.



“Please Pass the Sake” (2007), flashe on canvas


In art as in humor, you have to be brave, you have to be willing to be bad to be good. Both can so easily crash and burn. Both take great risks. Both can die a lonely death in complete and utter silence. And yet McKie goes there all day, every day, always has. Which is why his work is so widely beloved. You can't separate the two in him, the art and the humor.  The yin and the yang. The Cheech and the Chong. The right half from the left half of the brain. They are like the two pedals that make his bicycle go.



Todd McKie, "Feeling Any Better? 2007



Not that he is complaining either. Clearly he wouldn't have it any other way. Clearly this is what inspires him, what challenges him, what gets his motor running, what makes him tick, what tickles his funny bone.



Todd McKie, Geometry without Fear, 2001
flashe on canvas, 48" x 36"
Courtesy of Gallery Naga, Boston



There is so much going on in this work. So much that makes these paintings fly. The same is true of the humor. If Todd McKie is Giotto in paint, he is Bill Murray in comedy. His paintings go everywhere: landscape, interior, still life, portrait, surrealism, abstraction, color field, hard edge, action, minimalist, etc, and so do his jokes.




It's a Bird's World, 2014, flashe on canvas, 16x20"
courtesy Gallery Naga



Sight gags, one liners, parody, satire, slap stick, biting, witty, wise cracking, clowning, fooling around, sweet, dry, dumb, playful, contagious, unstoppable, incorrigible, he pokes fun at everyone and everything, especially himself. You can hear his paintings snickering. You can hear them crack themselves up. They are still killing themselves after you've left the room and they can't wait for you to get back so they can have another go.



Redball Express, 1993-- 25.75" x 31.5"


“Truth is Stranger Than Non-Fiction” (2006)



And yet they are beautiful. His goofy, cartoonish, almost stick-figure narratives about life, his life, about love and art, about living on this or some other planet, are beautiful. Giotto beautiful. They are a gift, a pleasure to the eyes, a feast that would make Caligula blush. Gorgeous adventures in color and mark and composition and imagination and invention.




Me and Hue, Babe, 2010, flashe on canvas, 24x20"
courtesy Gallery Naga



And the color! How much time do you have? Can you take the afternoon off? No one living or dead makes color talk, no... sing, no... wax pure poetry, like Todd McKie. He is in a league all his own. And it is not just beautiful color; it is daring, delightful, delicious, brilliant, breathtaking, disturbing, subtle, elegant, dangerous, generous, unexpected, unspeakable, undiscovered, beyond the pale, beyond the horizon, sublime, grimy, grim, and divine. Color alone puts McKie in the Hall.



Happy Arbor Day, 1993-- 27" x 32"


Todd McKie, A Proud Tradition, 36 x 48


“Bird, Interrupted” (2006)



And the same goes for the humor. But what of it? Does he suffer for it? Is he punished, and not taken seriously as an artist because of it? After all, The Martian won best comedy last year. Some people just don't have a sense of humor, or appreciate its stature or critical place in our lives. The Greeks did. Shakespeare did. I'm just saying.



Todd McKie, "Geometry" 2008, Flashe on paper, 22 x 28 inches


An Amazing Likeness, 2007, Flashe on paper, 22 x 28 inches



But oh! To be both! That is indeed a gift. In the worst of times and best of times, we need this. We need this artworld court jester now more than ever. To lighten the king's court. To let the air out of the royal windbag. That is something special! And Todd McKie's paintings are just that! Something special!



Jubilee, 2015, flashe on canvas, 20 x16"



Addison Parks
Spring Hill




"Flora" 1997, monotype, 23 x 30 1/2 inches




Gallery Naga Installation, 2016






Todd McKie




Todd McKie
received his BFA in painting from the Rhode Island School of Design. He has works in various public collections across the country, including the MFA Boston, the Microsoft Corporation in Seattle, and the University of Texas, Austin. For more information please visit Gallery Naga and his website.

Wednesday, April 05, 2017

Rory Parks and Paradise Lost





Rory Parks Installation, NYC






Rory Parks is painter as all things. He is at once artist, author, architect, and engineer. He is poet, philosopher, tinkerer, dreamer, and inventor. He is stage director, stage designer, stage setter and stage driver. He is distracted, head in the clouds, and sleeves rolled up, laser focused. He is composer and conductor and orchestra and soloist and more.





Big Orange Projector (Jukebox), oil on canvas, 89”x21”, 2010





He has always known when something he was painting felt just right. That, ah yes, that'll do. He has that kind of sensibility. That kind of intelligence. That kind of natural talent, genius and ability. A deep well of emotional awareness and goodness and even music. All of that and more.






Four Thought Experiments, oil on canvas, 2011





All of that and more go into each one of his paintings. That is what it takes to bring one of his paintings to life. Like beautifully crafted ships or flying machines. Ready to launch themselves out into the world. He has been making paintings like this since he was a very young man, wise and mature and prolific beyond his years.






not titled, Oil on Canvas, 47"x24.5" 2014




So that is part of the story. Part of what goes into the paintings of Rory Parks. Part of what goes into these constructions that he envisions and executes with extraordinary deliberation. The paintings, the narratives in and behind the paintings, and the experience of the paintings, come together, integrate, to give us something highly evolved, utterly unique, and wholly original.





not titled, Oil on Canvas, 48.75"x25.5" 2014




These are dystopian landscapes the likes of the cave paintings of Lascaux. They tell a Mad Max kind of tale of a civilization hung up on itself, a civilization that lost touch with itself, with the earth, with why we are here. These are beautiful portraits of hubris, of decay, of paradise lost.






Organism Tracks (After Flayed Rabbit), Oil on Canvas Assemblage 2014




We see buildings and bridges and structures like grand arks, withering in the landscape like ancient ruins, lost cities, something out of Planet of the Apes or Aliens. They are above all, however, living, alive, organic, and as such, organisms. They are at once proud and beautiful and even defiant. They stand tall, but they are falling apart.





Blue and White Projector, oil on canvas, 32”x18”, 2009




Within the larger play of his various constructs, devices, lenses, and narratives, there is something else going on. It is his language of painting. His texture. His fabric. His thin lines of pigment that build his surfaces. Where unusual color dialogue sneaks in, sets off sparks, and surprises us. A whole wonderful world unto itself. Delicious strips of paint, bumpy coalescing lengths of juicy brush strokes that Van Gogh would make a meal of, that tell a color story Albers would delight in, brush strokes that are knitted together, cemented together, thatched together. This is his signature style. Where paint acts like paint. Where our itch for the sensuality of paint gets scratched. Where we could happily set up camp. Where we can be intimate with the richly layered painting experience. Where we can be intimate with Rory Parks's paintings.




Rory Parks, 2003, oil on canvas






Parks builds and stretches slightly irregular canvasses that enhance the essential "from the ground up" aesthetic of the work and reinforce the cave painting vibe. Rory Parks as Robinson Crusoe, artist documenting the fall of Western Civilization with his bare hands.





Blue Projector(Book), oil on canvas, 32”x17”, 2009




Interestingly enough some of his inspirations spring directly from just such sources, like St Peters on  the island of Bermuda, where the artist has deep family roots. The 1612 church has been rebuilt many times but the interior provided a rich jumping off point thick with history, culture, and the human stain. The body of paintings pulled from that experience tapped into a world trapped in amber.






Rory Parks, Rose Viewfinder De Facto Organism, oil on canvas, 2007
(inspired by St Peter's interior, Bermuda)




Parks also peoples his paintings with characters. We are not alone. Strange animated forms stand in for us. Abstract inventions consistent and faithful to the abstract nature and mission of the work. These are paintings, first and foremost. They never forget that. They speak through the language of painting, through form and color, mark and composition. Beautifully. Always.





Inside the Monastic Volume of the Calendar, oil on canvas, 2012







Rory Parks, 2004, oil on canvas



There is also this pop culture question imbedded in them. Like the great wall in King Kong, are his brilliant, elaborate, and complex constructions built to keep us out, or something in. This question is unspoken, but it gnaws at us, haunts us, providing just one more motor to a body of work that would seem to generate enough chthonic energy and power, like the cave paintings at Lascaux, to reach across time, to call to us, to wake us from our slumber, to whisper in our ears as we charge, half a league, half a league, half a league onward.





Quity’s Double Blue Cross Pageantry, 18” x 36”; oil on canvas, 2011






Rory Parks, water base paints on board, 2006






Stamps and Envelopes, 2016 Installation, SAC Visual Arts,
 San Antonio, Curated by Norbert Clyde Martinez JR




Artdeal Magazine
Spring Hill, April, 2017




Hang On To Your Hot Lights (installation 2013),
 Oil on Canvas, wooden sculpture/shelving installation 2013






Rory Parks, oil on board, 2012





Four Thought Experiments, Installation detail






VAN HANOS AND RORY PARKS @ THE OPENING OF ASTRAL WEEKS, 2013






Rory Parks, 2013, water base on board






Rory Parks Installation, The Bow Street Gallery, 2016 - 2017


This essay accompanies the Rory Parks painting exhibit currently on display at the Bow Street Gallery.




Rory Parks Installation, The Bow Street Gallery, 2016 - 2017








Rory Parks at the Rema Hort Mann Foundation

roryparks.com

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Notes From The Blast Site: Thomas Berding at the Painting Center




Lessons In Building, 22″x24″, oil on canvas, 2013



At some point in his career Tom Berding took a detonator to his paintings to find himself again. Must have been around 1999. Call it collage aesthetic or deconstruction, doesn't matter. It worked. He hit a dead end and hit destruct, and boom, he rediscovered the joy of painting. Color, mark, shape, space, sound, texture, music, dialogue, energy, harmony, tension, conflict, balance, etc.



Thomas Berding, Command Tree, 44 X 48″, Oil on Canvas, 2013



It is as though he followed Philip Guston in reverse. Guston complained in the early 1960s that he hungered for something more solid when he abandoned his gorgeous, Monet-like, diffused 1950s abstractions, and then shocked the art world with his comic book hallucinations.




Thomas Berding, Physical Plant, 1990, oil on canvas, 59 1/2 x 108 inches



Thomas Berding blew up his own comic book hallucinations of the late 1980s and early 1990s to unleash something that is hard to put a finger on, literally notes from the blast site, exploded comic book hallucinations in vivid animated technicolor, a delightful and refreshing world that is partying like there is no tomorrow, like 1999, a non-stop parade, a non-stop flight to Rio, a place out of control, where the viewer isn't presented with an end, but a beginning. That is what his paintings are like: come on in, the party has already started, and we're having a blast.



Remainder in the Field, 2016, oil, acrylic
 and flashe on canvas, 24” x 24” 



Glorious color goes hand in hand with his loosely defined and multi-layered shapes and structures. It is at the heart of this process of making and breaking form and space. It is as though the viewer is being given certain variables, certain options to work with. Possibilities. Ocean blues might be one, here, take these nice ocean blues I've found. Or these tangerine oranges. What do you think? This farm door green speaks to me in a way I never imagined winding through this luscious raspberry sherbet magenta colored fragment/figment sea of my imagination.



Surplus Mound, 2016, oil, acrylic 
and flashe on canvas, 76” x 70” 



Now I want you to find your way through this kaleidoscopic playground. Step into my template. My neighborhood. Mister Berding's neighborhood. Watch yourself. Endless fun. Things shift, swing around, heads up, hold onto your hats, this ride takes unexpected twists and turns, but we are going somewhere today, some place special, constructed just for your entertainment, your sense of adventure, your sense of possibilities, your sense of hurrah, of fantastic other worlds, of unseen other places.



Thomas Berding, 2008, By Land and By Sea, Oil on Canvas, 70 X 76



Or not. Some viewers can also just stand back, take in something that acts like abstract arrangements of color and form, and be perfectly happy. Collage experiences which seem to move when our backs are turned, playful interior and exterior landscapes of brilliant color and light, breezy and revitalizing like a Spring day. Ride or not, Thomas Berding's paintings gift the viewer this one thing. They are the pleasure of painting. The joy of painting. The love of painting. And we are happier and better for them.



Explosion View, 44″x48″, oil on canvas, 2013




Addison Parks
Artdeal Magazine
Spring Hill




Sunrise Sunset Die Cut, 2016, 
oil, acrylic and flashe on canvas, 70” x 62” 





Multiple Futures, 2017, oil, acrylic,
flashe on canvas, 40" x 36"




Orienting Devices, 2017, oil, acrylic,
flashe on canvas, 30" x 24"






Thomas Berding
PAINTINGS FROM THE SURPLUS MOUND

March 28, 2017 - April 22, 2017
Opening: Thursday, March 30, 6:00-8:00pm

THE PAINTING CENTER 547 West 27th Street, Suite 500 New York 10001





Into the Wild, 2017, oil, acrylic,
flashe on canvas, 30" x 46"





Thomas Berding was born in Cincinnati, Ohio and received an MFA from Rhode Island School of Design. Berding’s paintings have been recognized with awards from the National Endowment for the Arts, Pollock-Krasner Foundation, and NEA/Mid America Arts Alliance. His work has been the subject of recent solo exhibitions at the University of Maine Museum of Art, University of Notre Dame, and in October 2016, Oakland University in metro Detroit mounted a survey of the last decade of his work which was accompanied by a major catalog. Over his career, Berding has exhibited at many venues including the David Klein Gallery, Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum, Nelson-Atkins Museum, Rochester Institute of Technology, Indiana University, Fort Wayne Museum of Art, Savannah College of Art and Design, and Rhode Island School of Design Museum among many others. Thomas Berding currently lives and works in East Lansing where he is Professor of Studio Art at Michigan State University.

For more information on the artist see: thomasberding.com or thepaintingcenter.org/exhibitions