Totemic Whammy whammy whammy at FLUXspace

Alan Prazniak, Dustin Metz
Alan Prazniak (l) and curator Dustin Metz with Prazniak’s Bite, oil and charcoal on canvas at FLUXspace.

Alan Prazniak‘s paintings and drawings erupt like volcanos and challenge you to a stare-down. There’s passion and thought behind the seductive works, which are now on view in Totemic Whammy at FLUXspace (he’s also got work in There will be Animals at Bambi — see Libby’s post) — and if you pick up a Willem DeKooning vibe, it’s there, although the artist told me it’s not a conscious quoting but more just what comes out when he paints and draws.

WILLEM OF KOONING : “Woman I”, 1950-52 – oil on canvas, 192.7- 147.3 cm. – New York, Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) ( © Willem de Kooning


Alan Prazniak
Tri-Eye (hanging perpendicular to the wall–you walk under it to see it

Those eyes in Threshing Floor and Tri-Eye? They grow out of Prazniak’s many other fierce and off-kilter eyes drawn and painted in works from the last year. And while they’re deKooning-esque they’re also reminiscent of Rennaissance and Baroque art’s wild-eyed furies in the works of Bernini, Caravaggio and others, whose over-the-top theatricality appealed to audiences of the time (and to us today as well).

Alan Prazniak
Threshing Floor, oil and charcoal on canvas, at FLUXspace


Prazniak, 22, and working from his gut and from what he’s reading and thinking, says he’s channeling Italy — thoughts and remembrances of his time spent in Rome when he was a student in Tyler’s overseas program a few years back. But the discontent and fierce anger that’s right there on the surface of the works, is not only the exaggerated heroism and mythology of Laocoon and the Trevi Fountain it’s also a little bit Bob Dylan, someone the artist listens to while he’s working and of course a little bit Alan Prazniak as well,someone who reads the poetry of John Keats, the dark stories of Raymond Carver and might be channeling a little William Blake as well. There’s poetry in the rhythmic works and music as well — jarring repetitions and cascades of lines, swooning, chopping, erased or jabbed, that create a manic cadence.

william blake.jpg
Pity, colour print finished in pen and watercolour by William Blake, 1795; in the Tate Collection, London. “Blake, William.” Online Photograph. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. 18 Apr. 2008 <>.</>

I know Alan from fall, 2006, when Libby and I co-taught a senior painting studio at Tyler. During that semester he was painting photo-based angst-filled works featuring a lone sports figure in a void of space or perhaps a team together where each person seemed completely alone. Interesting, existential works whose demythologizing of America’s sports heroes — like that of Norm Paris — felt right for this time and place. Towards the end of the term, though, new works popped out that were more gestural and intuitive, channeling an inner muse fueled by literature and a need to tell stories. His senior thesis show debuted this new work — a coherent body with expressionistic style coupled to heroic themes involving the gods, humans and animals.

From Prazniak's senior thesis show at Tyler, May, 2007.
From Prazniak’s senior thesis show at Tyler, May, 2007.

In this manic, crazy, angry, energetic new work Prazniak is still channeling the gods and the stories of anger, upheaval and creation. The touch is sure, the lines harsh where they need to be, lyrical and loopy elsewhere and in the grisaille pieces — with touches of color here and there — you can “hear” the color as well as see it. I think it’s possible to see humor and optimism, or maybe positivism is the better word in these works. Whatever their force, it’s primal.

Alan Prazniak
Vibrationbrationbration, oil and charcoal on canvas

A work like Vibrationbrationbration has the energy and mania of Stravinsky’s Rites of Spring–where all hell breaks loose in a dance whose frenzy at being alive is just this side of mayhem.

Alan Prazniak
Creation of the Animals, charcoal on paper.

I could go on and on. But mainly I want to tell you to get over and see this show at FLUXspace and the one at Bambi too. Picture me with googly eyes and bared teeth and doing a little dance–that’s how excited about this work I am. It has excitement and energy and forward momentum that’s a breath of fresh air. Don’t miss it.

I’ll leave you with some outtakes of Rome:

Trevi Fountain, Rome
Trevi Fountain, originally designed by Bernini.

Bernini, Gianlorenzo
Anima dannata
Damned soul
White marble
38 cm
Spanish embassy, Palazzo di Spagna, Rome

Laocoon and his sons, Greek statue from 160-20BC, now at the Vatican Museum, Rome

Totemic Whammy, to May 2. FLUXspace. To make an appointment to see the show, email curator Dustin Metz or call him 610.639.1203

There will be Animals, Tory Franklin, Alan Prazniak, K-Fai Steele, to May 18. Bambi