Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Ed Nadeau at the Courthouse Gallery

Ed Nadeau will be having an exhibition of his representational work at the Courthouse Gallery Fine Art in Ellsworth October 1-30. Artist's talk and reception are on October 7 - Following is my essay for the accompanying publication.


We Are All Mainers

Ever since he left graduate school in 1986, Ed Nadeau has been creating narrative paintings and drawings alongside his other bodies of work. He comes from a French-Canadian Catholic family and grew up in the Waterville area. This is important to note here because the artist's scenarios of transgression and absurdity grew out of this background - deep roots of folklore and oral narratives in French Canada and childhood tales of the Maine backwoods. However, Nadeau finds the ideas for his works in actual Maine news stories, events in his own life and combinations of both. For him real life is wondrous and weird enough.

Nadeau's tragicomical narratives are populated by caricatures of people and objects and implicitly challenge our everyday logic. The images remind strongly of the Theatre of the Absurd of the late 1940s to '60s which grew out of the realization that the certainties and unassailable beliefs of earlier times had been eroded. Vague moments of suspense reveal the foolishness of mankind when placed in the vastness of nature or when following its basest instincts. It is not surprising then that Nadeau lists among his literary influences Carolyn Chute's The Beans of Egypt, Maine, Stieg Larsson's thrillers, as well as Stephen King. His artistic style could be called faux-naive, revealing the deep influence cartoons have had on him (especially Bugs Bunny). However, his skillfull compositions and handling of paint give him away as a very accomplished painter who is drawn to the work of Anselm Kiefer, Willem de Kooning, Philip Guston, and his teacher Jerome Witkin.

Nadeau walks a difficult line between reinforcing stereotypes about Mainers, possibly even angering viewers, and creating enough distance for us to be able to experience the humor in his scenarios. He succeeds by maintaining an authorial distance, always presenting his characters and dramas from afar, thereby dwarfing the figures and avoiding an obvious point of entry for identification. This emotional distance, however, allows the viewer to relate to Nadeau's images in a more open, humorous manner. Although the incidents may originate in remoteness, poverty, lawlessness, and insufficient education, they are rooted in simply being human; thus Nadeau's stories transcend the particular and become universal. We all can recognize a part of ourselves and situations which we sometimes find ourselves in.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Just Seen and Dashed Off - Jeff Kellar

I just saw Jeff Kellar's show LOCATIONS at ICON Contemporary Art in Brunswick. For those who know his work, there are a few new departures to observe. The show includes mostly wall pieces of his familiar combination of resin, clay and pigment on aluminum panels (but there are also a few sculptures). They have his trademark spare compositions of two colors interacting in fields and lines to suggest pictorial space that sometimes seems to contradict our knowledge that we are looking at flat surfaces.

Overall, the new work seems slightly more simple in composition than previous bodies of work. Especially the black-and-white pieces titled Walls or Wall Drawing seemingly describe architectural interior spaces less ambiguously than before. Of those i find Wall Drawing 16 (black/white) (a bad snapshot of it above) most interesting as it retains openness, ambiguity of spatial relations, and asymmetry. The other, more colorful work of vibrating arcs, intersecting lines and interpenetrating planes is closer to earlier work, yet feels more condensed (Lines Cross (green) below). There are also a few works in which individual marks float in a field of color that remind me of Sol LeWitt.

Jeff Kellar: LOCATIONS at ICON Contemporary Art, Brunswick until October 16 - 207.725.8157

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Other Writing

I guess this sorely neglected blog will serve as a repository of links to my other outlets for writing. Unfortunately, artscope magazine does not provide full articles on their website, but if you can find the printed copies, there's an article on Ingrid Ellison i wrote for the July/August issue, and a review of the Sharon Lockhart exhibition at the Colby College Museum of Art in the current September/October issue.

And here are the links to my latest art current columns in the Free Press-

This one was about Alan Magee's annual open studio:

About Warren Seelig's installation at the Farnsworth Art Museum:

Anna Hepler's two exhibitions at the Portland Museum of Art and at ICON in Brunswick:

And most recently, comments about Dennis Pinette's show at the Caldbeck Gallery in Rockland:
and that's his painting Sand Cave II, 2010 (oil on gessoed rag paper mounted on canvas, 18 x 18 in.) above.

Happy reading!