Jon Manteau and Tim Murphy: Four Streets Apart

Jon Manteau
Mirror, by Jon Manteau, house paint on cabinet grade plywood

The breadth of painting–its material choices, its imagery, its mode of application– are the subject of Four Streets Apart, an exhibit at Tyler School of Art’s Tyler Gallery featuring the work of Jon Manteau and Tim Murphy. The artists, both from Philadelphia, live only four streets apart, but their paintings are worlds apart.

Manteau’s creates paintings of housepaint dripped and poured and manipulated onto cabinet-grade plywood. They are luscious and tactile, begging for a finger to feel the smoothness and ridges in the creamy textures. The colors are glorious, even though Manteau uses house paint. And the imagery is barely there but still manages to suggest juicy landscapes and baroque interiors., The titles provide a welcome handle to crack open the abstraction and bring it into reality.

Jon Manteau
Cloudbreak, house paint on cabinet grade plywood

With construction materials, he is building a world of his own, and by removing brush strokes, his work becomes a conversation with the brushstrokes of David Reed. The luminous atmospheres of the paintings also bring to mind the juicy work of Howard Hodgkin. Manteau had a Fleisher Challenge Exhibit in 2005 (see Roberta’s post). Manteau, a professor of studio art at Temple University and a PAFA grad is creating paintings that are what they are–objects.

Jon Manteau
Cast Drawings of Dead Puppies, by Jon Manteau. Sumi ink on paper

On a very different note, Manteau also showed three small sumi ink drawings that on the surface of things seem not all that far from Murphy’s paintings. Cast Drawings of Dead Puppies, which looks more like a print than a drawing, is darned scary, its strata of brush strokes suggesting burial, roots and underground streams. But the rhythm and juiciness of the mark-making brings it closer to Reed than to Murphy.

Tim Murphy
by Tim Murphy

Murphy paints stuffed rabbits, not dead dogs. Ironically, the bunnies are anything but cuddly. Especially in Murphy’s two black-and-white bunnies in outer space paintings, the paint is forbidding, even repelling, in its tarry blackness and visible, hatched-on brushed surfaces. The stiffness of the paintbrush that must have been used, and of the paint, stand in stark contrast to Manteau’s juicy pours.

The two space bunny paintings were my favorites because the subject matter was a fantasy of survival and transcendance, and the paint handling seemed deliberately contrarian–material and angry looking. The paintings with sweet colors (but dark subjects) made me think of every other young artist and his brother who are madly churning out bunny paintings. Even though all the bunnies were nicely done and the scenarios not in the least cuddly, I hope Murphy finds a different metaphor.

This show was curated by students at Tyler. The exhibit is up until Feb. 10.


jon manteau, tim murphy



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