Much of his earlier work has been involved in reconciling his interests in Chinese traditional painting with his very contemporary reading of his own outsider status as a bilingual Latino artist in America.
The tensions between intimate and public, between information and interpretation, in Simpson’s drawings of women’s hair take on a different meaning in a second body of work in what the artist calls the “orchestrated theatrical disaster” of war.
The author finds unexpected links between Boepple and the Surrealist phase of Alberto Giacometti
In addition to his spontaneous brushstrokes, Blakelock explores a decalcomania-like technique of load, press, smear, and lift. This emphatically material-based process creates a raised, textural web of paint activity with a few scattered reds, oranges and yellows flecking a surface that is eerily similar to Jackson Pollock’s and as interesting to ponder.
Working outside the gallery system, these artists made single-evening exhibitions, often in their own studios, issuing manifestos with these events. While some artists involved with Zero, like Lucio Fontana, are well recognized in America, this is the first survey of the lesser-known group in the States.
Woman Holding Tablet (1946) pleasingly and convincingly locates a seated figure within a geometric environment, with ochre tints and warm blacks set deftly against notes of bright coral and medium blue. The rather strenuous engineering of the pose and surroundings, however, give the impression of an exercise – a demonstration of the plastic re-creation of a generic event.
The grainy, opaque paint surfaces and austere earth palette bespeak an unfashionably non-ironic desire to produce ‘quality’ paintings. And there are learned references and quotations from art history and photography.
At first the eye is fooled – one thinks one is looking at silvery photographs of sublime cloudscapes shot from an airplane above an uninhabited wilderness. Closer examination reveals the patient, expert mark of the hand, as well as an improvisatory richness of imagination that, while consistently illusionistic, is decidedly otherworldly.
The artist softens his vigorous brushwork using a blending brush, a staple of the realist painter’s tool kit, relying too heavily on an admixture of white to sidestep the chromatic muddiness that would otherwise ensue. In places this unexpected technique imparts a smeary appearance, while elsewhere the forms are so hairy-looking you want to take a big comb to them.