Night moves, day dreams

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Roberta wrote the other day about going to Space 1026 and seeing cheerful work by Canadian cartoonist-artist-doodler Luke Ramsey‘s “Finding Joy” (post here) and how it seemed like an antidote to all the dark artwork that we’ve been seeing so much of. Well, it’s been pretty dark in the galleries since then (see my post here on post-apocalyptic art from Kathryn Frund). After Frund, I saw some work by Robert Godfrey at Bridgette Mayer Gallery — more darkness mixed with touches of hope ( left, installation of Godfrey’s “Odd Lips” and “Tall Tales” series) . The only big break in the clouds came in Kate Bright’s show at Locks Gallery.

Wet daydreams

Just a word about Bright. Roberta’s going to write some more about this work, but I have to get in a thought or two amidst my ruminations about how miserable most people seem to be feeling about the state of the world. Whereas Frund’s paintings are about the sad state of the earth, Bright’s large paintings, true to her name, are about the glory of the earth, and in this particular series, they are about the glory of water and how it moves and reflects the world around it. But don’t think traditional Neil Welliver here (if you missed the obit, he died earlier this month). Bright, who was one of the artists in the Post Flat exhibit of London artists at Locks, curated by Barry Schwabsky, applies puddles of resin amidst the juicy application of swirly paint to recreate the sizzly drama of trees and sky reflected in water. This work is definitely worth a visit for its glamorous merger of shiny resin and abstract acrylic swirls with realism. Bright uses a more abstract juiciness than Philadelphia-based Diane Burko, and a more representational approach than Alyson Shotz, two other landscape artists who also show at Locks. The Bright paintings bring motion and glitter to the landscape tradition (right, “Clarence Gate,” 72 x 55 inches).
godfrey, robert
Night moves

On the other hand, Godfrey’s work, hanging on the other side of Washington Square, is not about the landscape so much as about humans and their relationships, for better or worse. Yet Godfrey has create a post-apocalyptic milieu, especially in his larger paintings and drawings, with his dark-dark grounds and his dashed-off figures struggling through unfamiliar-looking places. But his point is less about the dark landscape, and more about the triumph of the humans, their survival, and their adventures–Mad Max.

I seem to be on a tear about large paintings versus small. Once again, I loved the small works, gouaches on paper (48 pieces were 6 x 6 inches and 40 were 9 x 4 3/4 inches), which are displayed on one wall in two eye-popping grids (left, “Odd Lips #4,” 6 x 6 inches, gouache on paper on foam core). They had all the energy and freshness that Godfrey’s style of quick mark-making can produce, whereas many of the medium and larger paintings, some of them based on the small ones, lagged in energy and interest. The show has 108 pieces altogether, and if you have been inside Bridgette Mayer’s gallery, you have to ask yourself how they all fit in there.

The small ones have a Hopperesque night-scene look with neon colors snapping against black. Couples dance, talk, argue, nuzzle, relate to one another, often in a dashed-off, expressionist grafitti-like style that has a retro, ’50s affect. The colors are beautiful and all relate to one another. I wanted to pick them up and shuffle them (right, “Tall Tale #13: We all knew that Bridget’s tattoo wasn’t real but that her love was,” 9 x 4 3/4 inches).

The grids also lent a dailiness and context along with a factory-produced sameness for the images to grate against. Thanks to the coolness that the grids provide, the smaller paintings show with dash and contemporary charm.

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