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massengale, reedy, and barge at dorsch

Post #497 • March 21, 2005, 12:40 PM • 19 Comments

Jordan Massengale is an artist of the future type, at least the immediate future, insofar as he is able to deal with figurative, media-derived images in a manner that utilizes the painting tradition to good effect. He possesses enormous talent for moving oils around, and his images come off with great pictorial command while feeling remixed in the contemporary sense. He pulls his source material from the internet but his identification with the animals he depicts harkens back to prehistory, and the result is a kind of barely civilized gutsiness brought to an artfully composed state. (images)

Rene Barge is in the same neighborhood with a series of explosive drawings, a large mural, and an installation of sorts, but isn't making them coalesce. (Actually, Massengale used to have this problem too on occasion. Perhaps it's a necessary middle stage.) Barge has done evocative minimalist abstract paintings with great success, and recently began some ab-ex work that I thought was admirable. But here, while the wall full of drawings has some hits, aggression defeated the art in most of them. The mural works better but seemed to call for more resolution and two more layers of paint. The cross, poster, and sound work simply refused to get involved with the other pieces. (images)

Brian Reedy continues to produce well-wrought, laugh-out-loud works on paper that nevertheless have an air of medieval gloom about them. Reedy's talent for Celtic knots, Escheresque transformations, sequential images, and similar design problems serves him extremely well as he tackles environmental mayhem and human foibles. My only criticism is that in the past he has produced works that looked more major than this - I reviewed a work of his in 1999 in which he had carved, painted, and gilded a block of wood to depict himself and his wife in space combat against demons, and now that I've seen these works on paper I rather long for a similarly pumped-up and authoritative statement. (images, images)




March 21, 2005, 9:59 PM

For me, the best paintings in the Massengale show were "Fenced In" and "Paint Ball" (not illustrated), in that order. Generally speaking, the color was good and probably the strongest aspect of the work, along with the paint handling. The pieces were coherent as a group, but it seems that every time I see a JM show, it's a different tack or departure, as if he's always looking and trying, but not quite finding or deciding. This could be versatility and experimentation, but it could also be lack of focus and trying to have it too many different ways (and I think the mixed results favor the latter). There is typically something to praise in his work regardless of the approach taken, but being all over the place would seem to be counterproductive in the long run.

Personally, based on what I've seen by JM, I think he may be best suited for relatively straightforward figurative painting that's no-nonsense and packs a punch, but without trendy concessions and attitudes. That may not be the hottest thing going right now, but the only way someone can do his best work is to be himself as faithfully as possible, or so it seems to me.



March 21, 2005, 10:07 PM

These look like Massengale's best paintings so far.

I go along with Jack, especially what he said in his second paragraph.

If Barge is going to paint very "wild & sketchy" like that the pix should be presented in a formal way, not tacked up on the wall.



March 22, 2005, 1:52 AM

I attended this opening. Barge's work did little for Reedy or Massengale; I don't understand why the three were shown together.

As Franklin said, Brian has shown more major pieced in the past. It seemed too many of the same and some verged on design projects of morphing one thing into another. Brian's work--or the figures in it, remind me of the architecture of Lucca. He's best when he is funny and ornate.

Massengale's work, and I'm not too familiar with it, needed more space around it or maybe better lighting. His dense paintings were cramped in the space. The plastic eyeballs felt like a slap in the face.

Barge's work didn't fit and didn't work. It shouldn't have been shown with Brian or Jordan.



March 22, 2005, 2:32 AM

I agree that JM's paintings would have been shown to better advantage in the main space, which has the best lighting. Both of the other shows would have benefited from judicious editing as well as more effective presentation. As often happens, less is more.



March 22, 2005, 2:35 AM

This is just to tell you I've been dropping in from time to time from far, far away. And I even recently put a link (with a due comment) to your post about Rauschenberg, which I found interesting, if not humble.



March 22, 2005, 2:50 AM

Images of are available at:

Brian Reedy

Rene Barge

Jordan Massengale



March 22, 2005, 3:00 AM

...which are the same as the image links above. Thanks, though.



March 22, 2005, 5:32 AM

As far as the visual arts go it is painting that I most identify with. I have been pushing paint around for 20 years now and really enjoy when I can see someone else doing it and relishing in it as they go. Massengale has been doing it a while too, as well as drawing a lot, which shows in the current work. Seeing Jordan's new work is pretty exciting stuff. My Favorites are "Fenced In", "Me a Gazelle", and "Me a Boar". As always those judging the work without seeing them are missing the strong physicalty of the paint. Jordan's color has been outrageous for a while now and sometimes for the worse. Here everything seems to come together very well. Tight interlocking compositions, with bold color and thick paint bursting out all over the place. Seems like he has found a way to meld drawing and a very painterly approach with strong results.
"Contemporary", subjective , modern, postmodern...Gericault, Rubens, Delacroix, Picasso, Guston, Fauvist...whatever, just good work. Some of the best painting I have seen in Miami in a long time.



March 22, 2005, 5:39 AM

correction: without seeing them in person. line 4 above.



March 22, 2005, 6:13 AM

For what it's worth, I thought "Fenced In" was unquestionably the best piece and that it looked very French (in a good way, obviously). Sort of like a Post-Impressionist take on the cave paintings at Lascaux.


that guy in the second to last row

March 22, 2005, 7:22 AM

Jack, Oldpro, and beWare , You are all right on. The French used those colors best but Jordan's handling them fine. A new Lascaux is an angle that I thought about when I saw that painting too. It is just good work and I think Jordan is hitting his stride with these paintings. As for JM's wishy washy past styles, (I haven't seen enough of his earlier work to decide but...) I want him to exploit this particular vain of working until it runs dry. These pack enough punch for me, and I'm tough to please as you know.

Just for the record: The lights were not on the painting "Paint Ball" that you mentioned when I took the photos, but you are right that it is a good one. Another reason for those who haven't seen the show to get over there.


John Sanchez

March 22, 2005, 9:36 AM

Hey Jack I am not really sure what you mean by JM being all over the place with his work at this point. I thought that I might have agreed with you in the passed about that but after really thinking about it-I would think that that is a good thing about Jordan or any artist for that matter. Shouldn't we always be searching and strive for something in our work? In fact I think this aspect of his work keeps me more interested. I always wonder what his next paintings will look like? I mean what would we get if say Miles Davis kept repeating his (albeit great) sound from album to album. Sure I'd go out and buy it because it would be good but luckily he kept experimenting and sometimes failed but they were part of that great searching and I love his crazy experiments just as much as his masterpieces. Again I feel like this idea about being all over the place comes from wanting to get a grip on where the artist stands that way we can say oh He/She is the artist that paints those melting cell phones or whatever. Maybe I don't understand what you mean can you clarify? Thank you



March 22, 2005, 9:37 AM

thanks for attending (and reviewing) my exhibition of paintings.
i have painted pictures that where derived from many media sources and this time i did not.
drawings from the zoo were the sources.
man is also an animal lets not forget.
we adore what we allready know.



March 22, 2005, 10:12 AM

Oops, that was Momoko style blogging (posting without reading). I recommend Momoko style blogging to people whose first language is not English. No kidding. Often, one comment alone has 25 words I don't know, and I don't have time and energy for looking up dictionaries just to read a blog. I assume, on some days, there are two hundred or more unknown words in one damned blog page. That makes it impossible for me to read on. It sucks, but what can I do?

Momoko style blogging hopefully differs from Potato style blogging, though they both may contain incoherence...



March 22, 2005, 2:16 PM

Jordan, I committed venal sin from an art writing standpoint - basing conclusions on incorrect facts. I owe you a revised review. Sorry, man.



March 22, 2005, 4:57 PM

John, I'm going on my observations, though of course I'm not inside JM's head, and he's free to do whatever he wants for his own reasons without consulting me or anybody else. As I said, the current show is coherent, so I meant he's BEEN all over the place. I did NOT mean that he should settle on a very specific mode and never evolve thereafter. Evolution, or growth, is obviously desirable, though change does not necessarily have to be dramatic; it depends on the artist (Morandi versus Pollock, for instance, or Claude versus Turner). Evolution should follow a kind of logical progression, or so it would seem, as opposed to abrupt shifts between very different approaches.

Again, it's not my place to tell JM or any artist what to do, but what he's been doing suggests uncertainty or insecurity, not with his talent, but with his direction--possibly related to very real practical considerations, given the nature of the current art world and what it would appear to take to get ahead in it. For what it may be worth, I'll add, to Jordan, that I think the zoo (animal or human) is a far better source than media images.



March 22, 2005, 6:28 PM

I like the "Out to Sea" turned like this (the second picture), or even cropped (third and fourth).

I do not know if it is a good or bad to have different styles like JM. It could be a strength, but I don't know. Many believe that an artist having a distinguishable style is a good thing, but it is not a rule. I think it certainly helps if people can identify your work without being told.


Potato H#ad

March 23, 2005, 5:14 AM

good news, everybody. after getting what was a totally on-topic and intelligent post zapped by lord franklin the other day, i've decided to make myself scarce. bye!



March 23, 2005, 6:14 AM

Do I respond to this?

Naah. See ya, tater.



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