Friday, August 28, 2015

Psycho-Moto-Psycho at Brick & Mortar

"Hyper Medico Della Peste," mixed media installation by Marty Fehl. Photo courtesy Laura Hanan

 Published in the Weekly Volcano, Aug. 27, 2015

It’s been a long time since I’ve seen art by Marty Fehl, and his new show at Brick & Mortar Gallery is quite a departure from the paintings of his I saw years ago — a good and exciting departure.
Fehl’s new work consists of paintings and installations based on motorcycles and motorcycle culture, or as the gallery refers to it, moto-inspired art. The repeated term “psycho” in the show title should also give readers a clue as to what to expect.
Anchoring  the left-hand wall as you enter the gallery are two six-foot-by-four-foot realist paintings of parts of vintage Ducati motorcycles. From five feet away they look like photo-realist paintings, but closer-in, brush strokes and paint build-up become evident. The artist wanted these paintings to look almost like photographs but still be about paint and the arrangement of shapes and colors on canvas rather than just about the appearance of the machines, which he obviously loves.
"Hypersensitive," acrylic on canvas by Marty Fehl. Photo courtesy Laura Hanan
The first of these paintings is called “The Bevel Make Me Do It,” a clever pun. It is an extreme close-up with great luminous metallic colors. It seems to the be cowl and parts of the motor. There is a curved section that looks like tinted glass. I thought it might be a montage of different parts, but I asked the artist and it is not. The extreme close view makes it into something abstract and confusing, at least to me, but attractive and beautifully painted.
The second of the two paintings is an even more extreme close-up, so close that the motorcycle becomes an abstract configuration in black and white with a few small areas of brown and tan. Imagine a Franz Kline painting in which all the brush strokes are precise and hard-edged. This is a strong painting.
There are two actual motorcycles in the show. One of them is mounted by a leather-clad rider with a leather mask that looks like a bird’s face with a long and menacing beak. He’s wearing goggles, and there is a red light behind one of the lenses. The figure inside the clothing is completely covered with leather: boots, helmet and gloves, so it is impossible to tell what the figure is made of. It could be a mannequin, or it could be sculpted of papier mâché or clay or almost anything. It is life-size and convincingly human and surrealistic. According to a printed statement, the beak-like mask is based on the masks medieval plague doctors wore. The leather jacket is the remnant of one Fehl was wearing when he had a recent motorcycle accident; the crash was captured on video and the video is also in the show, projected on the back wall.
Also on the back wall is a green-faced painting of Frankenstein’s monster, face only, floating in space with a little red Ducati gas tank for an eye.
And there are dada-esque motorcycle helmets on sculpture stands and a sculpture made from a strange motorcycle handle bar that reaches almost floor to ceiling.
This show contains elements of pop art, surrealism and dada, and is unlike anything else you’re likely to see in Tacoma.
Also included in the gallery are works by ceramic artist Steve Portteus, welder Josh Lippencott, and painter Laura Hanan, all of which were in the previous show at Brick & Mortar. I would prefer seeing more of Fehl’s work, but the inclusion of the other pieces is good for people who missed the previous show.
Psycho-Moto-Psycho, Thurs-Sat. noon to 2 p.m., Fri.-Sat., noon to 9 p.m. through Oct. 15, Brick & Mortar Gallery, 811 Pacific Ave., Tacoma, 253.591.2727.

No comments: