bas at snitzer, rayne at bruk, rodriguez at castillo
Post #659 • November 14, 2005, 6:41 AM • 34 Comments
Hernan Bas, whose work is currently up at Snitzer Gallery, has flaws galore, but fewer than I was expecting.
He chokes when he draws the figure. He can do it, but his figures tend to be the least interesting parts of his work. The brushed out areas of sky, forest, and water contain passages of legitimate paint-handling that I did not think he could manage. There's even some palette knifing that shows decent command. If he could render his waif-boys with the same authority, the paintings would become much stronger. Instead, he noodles them fearfullly. They come out as if he really, really wants them to come out a particular way, to their detriment - that illustrative style for which he has become known, I think. The style itself is not the problem - his handling is.
He cannot make a dark painting function. Painting needs a certain amount of light to operate. Without it, the pressure increases to pull it off by some other means, and he doesn't have other means. His dark paintings come off as black rather than shadowy, an effect that could work but doesn't for him. There was a near-perfect correlation between the tonal value of his images and their pictorial success.
I've observed before that his compositions weaken as they increase in size - there's proof in the Rubell collection. This is the scale at which he operates well - about eight to twelve inches on a side. Even then he's not a brilliant composer, but he's not a disasterous one either - he can get the job done.
That job, of course, is an extended fantasy about boys, and some kind of existential concern expressed via a kite, like in the Peanuts cartoon. He can communicate that enough for me to recognize its existence but not enough to make it land on me. Yes, even as a hetero, I insist that I should look at those guys and think they're hot. I don't, for the same reason that the kite trope comes off looking silly - there's not enough force behind them. Particularly in the videos. Bas needs to stay far, far away from video.
But all that said, he has talent, and he continues to improve. He has enough going on in his painted work to take it seriously, or at least to make it the subject of a serious hammering. The boy's as hyped as can be, but that's neither here nor there - eventually all that will blow over, and reveal this work to be a product of its time, one that valued a lightweight style. I don't mean that pejoratively - it's just how it is. Eventually he'll reach an age at which his work will remind us less of gayness and more of pederasty. Balthus dealt with a similar issue by transforming his Lolitas into angels, icons of perfect, depilated beauty. Balthus, however, didn't freeze up when drawing the figure, and could work eight feet by eight feet if he felt like it. It will be interesting to see how it all turns out for Bas.
Regarding Blake Rayne at Kevin Bruk: a little Rosenquist, a little neo-geo on top of it, a little color range, a lot of inert canvas. They don't work, but I'll credit them with not working in a distinctly 1970's way - stylistically, they look like the faux-seriousness of Rosenquist when he's way off of his game. Something in that can be salvaged.
David Castillo was showing Arturo Rodriguez, which allowed me to pay back a karmic debt. Twenty years ago Ramon Mestre wrote an article about Rodriguez for the Herald. I read it when I was in high school, maybe junior high, and it was one of the first times that I became aware that people went out into the world and became painters. That article pointed me down the right path. Saturday night, I got to thank him.
Castillo is showing a big collection of Rodriguez's work from the last few years, mostly doll-like figures in softly painted architectural settings. In one of them a female figure lies contorted on a bed while a male leaves the room, creating a psychological atmosphere of mixed playfulness and anxiety. The most recent works feature people with wildly distorted heads. I decided after a while that they did work, as strange as they were, and they had more fuel in them than the handsome but safer works from '02 and '03. It was interesting to see them back to back with Bas - I think it shows where Bas is off in putting an image together, and by how much. It's not a chasm, but he still has a gap to close.