Paul Georges: The
Salander O'Reilly Galleries
20 East 79 Street, New York
March 4- March 29, 2003
Paul Georges My
Posthumous Series: Muses Dancing in Volcano Shadow 2001
oil on linen, 80 x 106 inches, Courtesy Salander-O'Reilly Galleries,
Jaunty and headstrong as always, Georges dubbed this last group of works,
The Posthumous Series just before his death. A kind of pre-post game
show, the exhibition offers a rare opportunity to evaluate this artist
in light of his successes, failures and ultimate goals. A student of
Hans Hofmann, Georges sought to reconcile the Push- Pull theories of
the Abstract Expressionists within a figurative format, linking the
great masters of the Western canon to Modernist concerns. His nervous
energy freely mixed landscape, still life, portrait and allegorical
history genres with a nutty logic noted by those raised on postmodern
juxtaposition. Yet his pictorial inventiveness, lush surfaces and bravura
brushwork endear him to traditionalists as well.
In Muses Dancing in Volcano Shadow, 2001 the artist depicts a Poussinesque
cluster of young women in a Vesuvian landscape. The flames of the volcano
create coloristic parallels with masses of pure exposed vermillion in
the foreground. George's always flaunted horizon lines and gravity.
Angel at the Skylight, 2001 presents simultaneous views of both the
aged artist and his symbolic muse, a female model floating above.
These works always maintain a curious dichotomy. Their full-bodied red
underpainting recalls, but essentially heightens, Venetian studio practice.
This coupled with a high key imposto insures glaring chroma at the edge
of hyper-saturation. At their best, the works adhere to the abstract
tensions familiar to Hofmann, yet equally to the content and gestures
of modern figurative artists, like Balthus or Kitaj.
When less successful, Georges may be slap-dash, uncontrolled or mawkish,
the purveyor of lost opportunities in a series of Grand Manner applications.
But the last twenty years brought a ripening and fruition of the artist's
unique talents and ambitions. This Exhibition retains buoyancy, youth
and conviction barely known to his generation and a directness of emotion,
certainly unknown to ours. In the show's signature piece, Painting in
the Studio, 2001, the aged artist is signified by a grayed gesticulation
of paint flanked by planes of acidic yellow-orange and mauve. Flowers
and fruits articulated by a series of staccato marks glow from within.
Bringing to mind the late portraits of Bonnard, Georges evokes a brittle
melancholy despite all the color candy. The work's fluid brio coupled
with a charming adolescent klutziness puts Georges in a class by himself.
Clearly, he offers much to our beleaguered contemporary souls on the
reading and restructuring of the personal and artistic past. Despite
all his heroic posturing, his example demonstrates that the expressive
act is finally and irrevocably linked to a state of vulnerability.