Two makers of narrative figurative art grapple with death in a striking show
Reviewed by Rachel Koper, Fri., June 12, 2009
Pump Project Art Complex
Through June 11
White bodies float on a field of black. Life-sized and blurry, two adult bodies hover in a dark void. In a striking series of paintings, Morgan Sorne is here to haunt us.
The rectangles of black fabric resemble humans in scale; the arms of the bodies are crossed over the chest. Shroud, the large pair of canvases, is a striking and brave diptych by Sorne. It's fine to see both his and John Mulvany's artworks in "Ghostsongs," all of which grapple with death. Both make narrative figurative art that here shares a reflective solemn nature.
Sorne has made a grouping of painted figures cut out of wood. Robed children pop up from the floor in front of a large landscaped canvas. In this canvas and in Shroud, the medium is listed as "cygnuxidation on duck cloth," which could be translated as bleach on black cloth. I love this technique; it's a reductive way to paint, not adding layers but instead stripping the pigment away in washes. I've dripped bleach on jeans before, but it never looked like this. Sorne has been practicing this process, as he's able to create and control several gradations of midtones. The image ends up loose, drippy, ghosty, random, and mysterious.
Mulvany has painted a series of oil paintings with orange skies and ample amounts of china red under the paint. This series features suburban-home settings carefully detailed with very realistic front yards and elegant trees. They look picture-perfect, but they are haunted by ghosty figures that float Chagall-like through the paintings. In one, two soldiers with machine guns are imposed like a collaged dream into a front yard. Another features two men leaning over an urn, one a man looking up and holding a rosary. In some, the legs of the ghost are squeezed into a flying tail. In The World Lit Only by Fire, several cattle with halos loiter in front of a ranch-style house. Mulvany continues to show great promise as a hardworking realist oil painter who is not averse to tragedy. Perhaps oddly, I could live with this art – I find it peaceful and solemn. Death is the great equalizer, something each and every one of us can look forward to, the ultimate nap.