These new artists render visuals so distinctively, they seem like old hands at painting
Reviewed by Wayne Alan Brenner, Fri., Sept. 25, 2009
Wally Workman Gallery
Through Oct. 1
Understand the context of the show called "New Talent" at Wally Workman Gallery, lest you do a spit take upon seeing it and the acai berry juice you've just taken a mouthful of winds up on the wall like some deep-magenta Pollock approximation. Know, specifically, that the talent referred to is that of artists new to the Workman Gallery, added to the venue's roster of brilliants in the past year. That knowledge will make the show's title easier to accept. You won't be confused when, perusing the "new" talent, you see works of art by people who've rendered reality in discernible, distinctive visuals in such precise and effective fashion along two dimensions that you'll think they've been at it for at least half of your own lifetime.
Two dimensions, yes: These are paintings, specifically, enlivening the gallery's elegant setting. Physicists tell us that there are many more than even just four dimensions – that there may be 16 dimensions, perhaps more, a possible infinitude, overlapping and provoking qualia beyond consensus. Qualia? That is to say: You call it red, and I call it red, but what is each of us really seeing?
Just the reality we all take for granted, the usual three dimensions plus the matrix of time, can be interpreted in as many ways as there are people perceiving. The talent that is new to the Workman Gallery offers us a quintology of gorgeous interpretations.
Richard Ewen's bright watercolors frame what's been previously framed, providing scenes captured through (or partially reflected upon) the storefront windows of fancy emporiums, the shoppers and their outward surrounds ghosting the more substantial world of commercial offerings the way an art lover might haunt the paintings on display at a gallery. One has to buy into such a metaphor, as the phrasing goes, but we're definitely sold on this.
Angela Fife, working in oils on panel, leaves those frames beyond the artist's choice of depiction to be added later. Her scenes of fine garments arranged upon manikins and accompanied by symbolic bird shape or shadow suggest personal narratives as deep as the history of ornithology.
David Fowler. Not the usual sort of name for a superhero, but it certainly seems as if this artist, while attending a still-life exhibition in his teens, was bitten by a radioactive set of Colorforms. But Fowler's arrangements of visually simplified household sundries eschew any four-color comic-book garishness, their oil-on-canvas hues muted and subtle, the artist doing things with light that seem a flattened version of what Edward Hopper did with shadow.
Scott Kiche spreads his oils on panel, his works the ones most indebted to photographic realism. How unusual for a man who arranges the subjects of his attention in interesting ways to not do so in a manner that's precious or trite. How refreshing that a sidestep or two toward surrealism doesn't, as that of lesser talents too often does, reek of secondhand Dalí. How are we to ever see another piece of fruit without wishing Kiche would create its portrait for our hungry walls?
But hungry walls suggest blank walls, and blankness there could always instead be covered, if less successfully, by wallpaper, right? Somewhat more successfully if it were paper designed by that friend and contemporary of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, William Morris. And perhaps as successfully, according to one's taste, if it wasn't rolls of printed paper at all but the acrylic-on-board paintings of Erika Pochybova-Johnson. The artist captures creatures of the wild – a toucan, a green sea turtle, a jellyfish, each to a single board – in the midst of environments of Morrisian complexity, all rendered in such polychrome pointillism that it could make you weep for the colorblind.
This is the collection of works in "New Talent," a five-person show that we suggest is well worth seeing. Your own qualia, of course, will vary.