ART REVIEW: A Bigger Picture, a Classic Declassified - CHRIS BAKER'S EPIC PAINTING, 'PACIFIC,' TAKES REMBRANDT'S CLASSIC 'THE NIGHT WATCH' AS A DIRECT SOURCE OF INSPIRATION
By Josef Woodard, News-Press Correspondent
March 14, 2014 11:54 AM
Chris Baker | Pacific
Despite the presence of studies, back-stories and supportive energies, the current fare in the Jane Deering Gallery basically qualifies as a one-painting wonder. Even casually walking by the gallery space, Chris Baker’s Pacific screams out to the senses, in a side-of-a-wall, mini-mural kind of way, its whopping 106-inch-by-132-inch dimensions all but lording it over one long gallery wall, and engulfing our sightlines.
Chris Baker . Pacific 2014 . Oil on canvas . 106 x 132 inches
And yet, if this seemingly casual gathering of figures in an identifiably iconic Southern California setting initially settles easy on the mind -- giving double meaning to the word ‘Pacific,’ as ocean and peaceful feeling -- the conceptual plot thickens and taps into something deeper and art-historically entrenched. Pacific takes, as it s primary inspiration and model, Rembrandt’s classic and epic 1642 painting The Night Watch, aka its original title, ‘The Company of captain Frans Banning Cocq and lieutenant Willem van Ruytenburch preparing to march out.’
Chris Baker . Night Watch, Abstracted 2014 . Oil on canvas . 487 x 72 inches
Mr. Baker, who has studios in Carpinteria and Sedgwick, Maine, has maneuvered a post-Modernist flip here, unabashedly channeling and structurally mimicking Rembrandt, while lending a refreshing new twist in the realm of figurative art-making. He switches out the moody and dim-lit nocturnal setting of the original with bright, unrelenting California mid-day, and exchanges the 17th military aggregation for a motley crew of casual-dress Californians, slacker, possible scholars, and a jazz trio appreciated by a baying dog.
But clearly, the formal and organizational connection of the two paintings conspires toward an artistic, odd coupling across centuries, painting idioms and geo-cultural coordinates. As the artist explains in a statement, ‘This is not a utopian order, nor is it a natural oder. Rather, it is an alternative oder -- one that is large, wide, in color, imperfect.’
Across the room from the ‘big picture,’ hangs his piece, The Night Watch, Abstracted, service as a kind of point of reference and/or departure from the more than twice-as-large painting across the way. Elements of the original have been scrubbed, scraped, blurred and blackened, as is windswept by the gusts or art historicist memory and contemplation.
With Pacific, the vast scale belies its ambivalent, easy-does-it, leisure-soaked imagery. We instantly recognize the archetypal stuff of the SoCal lifestyle, from the swim-suited fashion, shorts (with camouflage pattern, mixed with the colors of the Ethiopian flag -- how SoCal is that?), and the odd presence of an older man positioned in an arch, pontificating pose, a direct lift of the central figure in the Rembrandt. He is the surrogate 21st century, Californian stand-in for captain Frans Banning Cocq.
These disparate characters are curiously collected here, in a mannered, frozenly theatrical way in this stage, set-like space. They could have been enlisted from a mega-mall or fresh off the strand in Venice, California, in the lazy, sunlight-kissed atmosphere with mild mountains in the background, a geometric, modernist beach house and the classic eucalyptus tree -- seemingly indigenous to California, but actually a non-native, like so many things on this far coast.
In the dramatic arts, in theater, opera and film, the process of updating and re-contexturalizing old standards of the repertoires is an accepted part of the creative process. Updating and modernizing Shakespeare or Verdi, say, is a gesture toward making great art universal an of-the-now, as well as a potentially controversial prospect. In the fine arts, the long arm and ominous echoes of art history feed into what comes next in ways that can be more poetic or twice-removed, or also sometimes realized by moving in an opposite direction.
Mr. Baker’s notion is, at once, bracingly direct, and sneakily complicated. With Pacific, somehow, the careful blend of transformation, adaptation and allegiance becomes a subplot in the fascination of the painting -- and the project itself. The painting, this one looming tableau of a painting, is the thing, yes. But it’s also just the starting point.
ART REVIEW Pacific Study 1.5 2014
Watercolor on paper . 6”x9”
Chris Baker | Pacific
When: through March 29 . 2014
Where: Jane Deering Gallery . 128 E. Canon Perdido Street
Hours: 11am to 5pm Tuesday-Saturday . Information: janedeeringgallery.com . 805-966-3334
The Land Has Many Parts
January 15 - February 15 . 2014
@ JDGallery Santa Barbara CA
This exhibition was initially inspired by British artist Nigel Peake, whose book, In the Wilds, is a charming collection of drawings and close observations of his daily life in the country -- the surrounds of ‘shelter, mountain, ground and lake.’ Peake has an abiding love for the land, including the functions and structures land supports, and writes ‘the land has many small parts.’
The idea for the exhibition then broadened as further sources came to light, connecting landscape to power, memory, modernity, cultural and climatic shifts, demonstrating the notion of land as complex and multi-layered.
Taking a cue from all of these sources, I asked each of the artists in this exhibition to communicate their notion of land through an inventory of their own observations, real or imagined. What does the contemporary artist see in the landscape? Their interpretations articulate new visions, new connections and speak as much to the illusory, the nostalgic, the fantastic as to the real and the ruined, raising questions about how we interact with the land and what consequences this might have for the environment and, ultimately, the landscape.
Amanda Burnham (Baltimore MD)
Kerry Gorton Evans (Boston MA)
Jacob Hessler (Camden ME)
Ryan Hoover (Baltimore MD)
Julian Kreimer (Brooklyn NY)
Magnolia Laurie (Baltimore MD)
Rosemary Liss (Baltimore MD)
Adin Murray (Gloucester MA)
Susan McNally (North Kingston RI)
Michael Porter (Newlyn UK)
Kim Parr Roenigk (Baltimore-Washington DC)
Christina Seely (San Francisco CA)
Sommer Sheffield (Santa Barbara CA)
Ro Snell (Santa Barbara CA)
Emily Speed (Liverpool UK)
Joan Tanner (Santa Barbara CA)
Hazel Walker (County Clare, Ireland)
Drawing on Traces, and Winking Darkly : UNORTHODOX BLEND: DANE GOODMAN AND KEITH PUCCINELLI COLLABORATE ON 'TRACE PRINTS'
By Josef Woodard, News-Press Correspondent
March 22, 2013 11:19 AM
In the time-honored solitary and single-minded nature of art, especially in two-dimensional art, genuine collaboration is a rare thing. No doubt, that very collaborative factor is the unique charm of the exhibition now up at the Jane Deering Gallery, which goes by the truth-telling moniker DANE GOODMAN + KEITH PUCCINELLI | The Trace Prints Project.
As it turns out, the join creative effort isn’t as strange as it might seem. Yes, it’s true, these two distinctive and disparate -- though kindred-spirited -- Santa Barbara-based artists jointly worked on non-linear narrative coated with fever dream logic. We ‘get’ that these two respect each other’s sensibility and know their points of crossover. That was mot obvious in the retired-Atkinson-Gallery-director Mr. Goodman’s curatorial imprint on Mr. Puccinelli’s memorable 2011 cerebral circus at the Atkinson, a fantastic show dubbed ‘sweet cream sour fool.’
Both artists like a good, dark and cryptic joke, and find intriguing ways of drawing lines of connection between their own private sense of style and art history traditions, from grand Guignol to surrealism to post-Modernist malarky-ism. They seem to be likely and like-minded collaborators and co-conspirators.
Even so, it slightly startles the art-appreciative mind to try and parse the roles of each involved in these curious drawings, using the humble but effective, one-off technique of ‘trace drawing’ in reverse.
Some pieces become parts of a series, or of negative imagery fragmented and reiterated, with rippling echoes and iconography of images seen elsewhere. As a sum effect, the dense thicket of image on the gallery walls draws us into is slippery storylines and cross-references, its private and strange dark comical world.
Certain signature elements circulate amongst the drawings -- Mr. Goodman’s snowmen and pumpkin heads, Mr. Puccinelli’s iconic and historic sad clowns, for instance -- but often, it’s hard to distinguish who did what, or where the call-and-response responsibility lays. Therein lay the artistically dialoguing charm of this unorthodox project.
Perils and dry pratfall comedy abound. And while mostly they live in the realms of fantasy, childhood memories revised, and folk art-like freedom of expression (and free association of expression), the nasty real world sneaks into the picture at times. For instance, can we ever view images of the World Trade Center with anything but tragic remorse and dread about the state of the world? Recurring images of a falling bomb, and just the crudely-scrawled, loaded work ‘Afghanistan’ inserts a does of reality in the otherwise alternative/underground cartoony vibe of the room.
If the ‘centerpiece’ in this weirdly wonderful show is lavished on the walls, begging to be ‘read’ from left to right in some deceptively narrative fashion, the sculptural pieces on the gallery floor occupy their own sense of space. Here in a cluster of serio-comic sculptures, the individual artists cling to individual responsibility fro what’s before us.
Pursuant to Mr. Goodman’s by-now familiar -- and vaguely creepy -- cast of characters, we find lovably grotesque heads and a pumpkin-headed boxer on tall sticks, as well as a mushy, melt-y ceramic piece, ‘World’s Largest Two-Faced Snowman.’
Mr. Puccinelli tends to steer his post-Oldenburgh-ish ideas around reformulation of form, content and materials, whether in the cereal-smattered ‘Bowl of Grapenuts’ or the visual and materialistic punning, wooden-cigarette facsimiles ‘Twig Cigs.’ He also shows defanged weaponry, guns made from organic, non-lethal materials, and a funny footnote of a piece, ‘Suspicious Package,’ slyly placed on the floor and empowered by its nearly unnoticed presence.
In the end, the notion of suspicious packaging may be the best way to describe the strange wonder that these artists have wrought there, alone and together. They have taken on a unique project in which the normally private passions and obsessions of the individual artist have merged with another creative head, and a certain enlightened, collective headlessness is the upshot.
Puccinelli and Goodman
In The Trace Prints Project, Keith Puccinelli and Dane Goodman
Tuesday, March 5, 2013
by CHARLES DONELAN
A COUPLE OF NOBODIES: In their new show at Jane Deering Gallery,
well-known and prolific Santa Barbara artists Dane Goodman and Keith Puccinelli
converge over a dizzying process known as trace printing. A piece of drawing paper is
placed onto an inked linoleum block, and the artist then draws on the dry reverse
surface of the paper with some kind of stylus. When the first proof is peeled away, a
simple print is created, showing a mirror image of whatever has been drawn on the
reverse side. In subsequent proofs, the original image comes up as a negative from
where the ink has been taken away. At each go, the paper picks up more static and
atmosphere from dust, air bubbles, and distortion. The trace printing technique was
used to great effect by Marie Schoeff in her January 2012 show Traces, also at Deering,
but in this instance, with two artists involved, the drama inherent in the sequencing and
multiplicity of the images takes on an added dimension of dialogue.
In their new collaboration, Keith Puccinelli and Dane Goodman operate through cartoon alter
egos, a clown and a snowman, respectively.