Thursday, March 14, 2013

Clayton on Art: South Sound Artists vs. International Artists

Published in the Weekly Volcano blogSpew
March 12, 2013

"Puppet Love" assemblage by Lynn Di Nino
For reasons I can probably never explain both Al Taylor’s untitled acrylic painting and Joel Shapiro’s untitled charcoal drawing in the BNY Mellon collection show at Tacoma Art Museum remind me of paintings by Jeremy Mangan. Taylor’s little painting on newsprint and Shapiro’s charcoal drawing are both abstract. Shapiro’s is a big letter V in two tones of black/gray on a light gray background that looks like worn and scarred concrete. Taylor’s painting is of four adjacent and oddly balanced angular lines in red, blue and black like some kind of angular construction made of rebar or two-by-fours, painted and left out to weather. Both are abstract. Mangan’s paintings are not abstract. They are of buildings, houses and landscapes. 

Furthermore, they are very bright and colorful whereas Taylor and Shapiro’s pieces in the TAM show have little or no color. Yet I immediately thought of Mangan when I saw them. It’s the surface quality, the laboriously worked surface like paintings on the sides of barns or on wood that has been left out in the rain and wind and sun for decades. And it is the precarious balance of their forms and their use of space — not illusory or atmospheric space but the distribution and placement of forms on a flat surface.

The similarities are most evident in works from 2008 and 2009 seen on Mangan’s website — not so much so in his later paintings. What differentiates Mangan’s paintings (and this has nothing to do with what is good or bad, just different) is that they depict unique scenes that viewers can relate to and which, in some instances, verge on Surrealism.

I’ve noticed similarities between the works of other local artists and that of more well-known national or international art figures. Olympia artist Becky Knold, for instance, makes paintings that look a lot like works by Robert Motherwell. Christopher Mathie, who often shows at Childhood’s End in Olympia, looks like the love child of Willem de Kooning and Joan Mitchell, both of whom he credits with being strong influences. And Judy Hintz Cox had a painting in the recent “Azul” show at B2 Gallery that was an obvious takeoff on a Mark Rothko, plus her other works in that show looked like that same Al Taylor painting from the Mellon collection.

One more: Lynn Di Nino is Tacoma’s answer to Jeff Koons. Many of her sculptures have the same quirkiness and audacity as some of Koons’ pieces, although Koons — with gobs of money and a whole factory full of assistants at his disposal — can do work on a gigantic scale and Di Nino can’t. One of her more recent projects featured in the Foundation of Art Awards show at B2 Gallery was a series of assemblages made from Hostess products and packaging. I can envision Koons doing the same thing only in his case each object would be enshrined in its own Plexiglas box.

Of course all artists pick up influences from many different sources and many create works that coincidentally look like works by other artists where there is no intentional influence, and trying to find such similarities and influences can be a meaningless intellectual game. But it can be a lot of fun.

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