Monday, January 16, 2006

Sunday, I'm in Love

“Hello Sunday” is an intimate group show curated by figurative artist Holly Coulis. The show examines “an ease regarding process,” and a casual, but romantic sensibility in painting. Emerging artists, such as Benjamin Butler and Maureen Cavanaugh, are included, as are mid-career artists, including Brad Kahlhamer and David Humphrey.

Most exciting in this show is Keith Mayerson, who advances another alpha male in his series of male heroes. This time it’s America’s favorite perpetual youth, Charlie Brown. Charlie Brown wields his baseball bat, hopeful for a hit, yet doomed to Sisyphian failure by strike-out. Snoopy looks on, but with his back turned to our hero, perhaps to turn his head on the third strike.

The palette of wheat grass, brick red, and split pea soup thrives in the flat color fields, modeled only in key places, such as Charlie Brown’s famous yellow shirt. Colors are repeated from place to place, and shapes are delineated in blue blends and purples. The approaching baseball is rendered in soupy, swirling brushwork pushing in and pulling out the silky paint. Elsewhere in the painting, Mayerson employs insistent, short strokes within the flat fields, and one thinks of a Van Gogh sky or field. Mayerson also incorporates text, with the “Peanuts” logo and more. Clean-cut letters a la Ruscha or Baldessari find no place in a Mayerson painting; instead, we see painterly, irregular type. Some letters – and entire words – are scrubbed out during the painting process and not replaced, indicating that they are secondary to Mayerson’s process of impulse and expression – he won’t go back to “fix” something.

Mayerson employs Appropriation, using as his source popular icons and imagery: rock stars, actors, and cartoon characters. However, he eschews the hard-edged, geometric forms of the Pop idiom (Lichtenstein, Warhol, Koons) for messy, gestural, expressive forms and paint application. He also seems to discard the irony of Pop, as his paintings ooze with tactile appeal, sincerity, and warmth.

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