Irish American Art

Nov 27, 2011

Art In America
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Painterly Collages

By Edith Newhall for The Inquirer
Posted: Sun, Nov. 27, 2011, 3:01 AM
Published in The Philadelphia Inquirer, Sunday November 27, 2011, Section H5

After decades of being ignored by young artists, collage is back at the cutting edge of contemporary art. What's different this time around, though, is the prevalence of representational imagery in collages and the use of cut and found materials in paintings - the notion of the large painting on paper or canvas as a collage.

The spirits of Kurt Schwitters and Anne Ryan do not hover over the List Gallery's "Collage Perspectives: Works by Elizabeth O'Reilly, Ken Kewley, Chie Fueki, Arden Bender Browning, and Njideka Akunyili," nor do its artists seem to have been influenced by Dada, pop art, or Fluxus collagists. Craft traditions and paintings by the likes of Georges Braque, Vincent van Gogh, Paul Gauguin, Richard Diebenkorn, and Peter Doig seem the more obvious touchstones.

Njideka Akunyili's large mixed-media works on paper incorporate painting, ink transfers, and Xeroxed photographs, but her images of domestic settings, full of competing patterns and often prominently featuring a figure or two, call to mind the flat renderings of Kerry James Marshall and Gauguin. Akunyili's Nigerian heritage is prominent in her work though, too, especially in her layers of Xeroxed imagery.

The acrylic and mixed-media portrait of a young blond man with pale blue eyes in Chie Fueki's Matt would seem to be directly referencing several of Van Gogh's self-portraits, not just through the intensity of the subject's expression, but with Fueki's thick ridges of paint, which appear to have been squeezed onto the surface through a tiny nozzle.

His mixed-media painting Marsh, on the other hand - one of the few abstract works in this exhibition - has an illustrative, fairy-tale quality reminiscent of Peter Doig.

Richard Diebenkorn might not be the first artist one thinks of on seeing Lag, Arden Bendler Browning's acrylic and gouache painting on Tyvek, not least because the work is extremely horizontal. Nevertheless, Bendler Browning's cityscape abstractions exaggerate perspectives in a manner akin to Diebenkorn's "Cityscape" paintings of the early '60s, and even use a similar palette.

Ken Kewley and Elizabeth O'Reilly are the classicists of this show. Kewley's small collages of figures in interiors and street scenes honor Braque's cubist compositions, while O'Reilly's views of Brooklyn's Gowanus Canal and New York City, assembled from individually cut pieces of hand-painted watercolor paper, suggest American woodcut prints from the 1930s.

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