Marianne Gagnier at Maurice Arlos Fine
Langdon Quin at Kraushaar Gallery
Delectamenti, Uptown and Down
Here are two very different painters in quite different galleries.
One is loosely representational; the other, traditional in handling
and in motifs. One is uptown, one downtown, the distance between
them as much a matter of style as geography. Yet both are equally
satisfying for a similar reason—the simple beauty of their
MARIANNE GAGNIER is an engaging
gestural painter anchored to representation by a very thin,
literary, thread. This is her first exhibition at Maurice
Arlos Fine Art, a Tribeca gallery with an affinity for figuration
that ventures outside the photo-realist cage.
Looking at the work, it seems safe to say that her attachment
to landscape motifs is based largely on her own love of a certain
landscape tradition without being interested, necessarily, in
landscape per se. Overall, it is not the spirit of place that
draws her. Her interests center on the mythopoesis that informs
the landscapes of Nicholas Poussin and his friend and countryman
Claude Lorrain. Both her strengths and weakness derive from
her choice of antecedents.
|The Last Fish,
34"x46", oil on linen, 2002
She fulfills her intentions most fully and gracefully in the
apportioning of light and shade. You do best if you put aside
her titles and concentrate simply on the dialect of light and
shade that link these paintings to her self-chosen influences.
Visual impact and surface design derive from the spatial relations
between the lighter and darker areas of the canvas. They are
vigorously and sensuously done. Darksome, broody passages are
abruptly halted by a luscious expanse of sky. Both the clear
and somber segments are built from layers of scumble and wash.
As in Poussin, the lighting is not systematic. It is determined
largely by inner need. Mood.
Centimeter by centimeter, it is a lovely sight.
Less convincing are some of the figures that yoke the paintings
to their titles and to the mythological themes suggested by
by them. A daub with wings and bow and arrow diminishes the
magnitude of the classical drama, steeped in epic intention,
that they refer to. Both Poussin and Lorrain were great draughtsmen.
A painter claiming them as antecedents has to observe a certain
caution in terms of the credibility of the marks used to indicate
a human form.
In the main, Gagniers undefined figures are appropriate
to the sweep of her brush throughout. Things flag in her use
of winged figures that appear like throwaway lines, affectless
and lacking in seriousness. Here, the literary source is left
to carry a weight it can no longer support on canvas. Our cultural
equipment does not grant plausibility to a dashed off version
of a pre-modern cliché that requires reinventing to be
Gagnier is too good with the brush not to challenge her own
quite evident re-creative abilities. Overall, she is a very
Maurice Arlos Fine Art, 85 Franklin Street, NYC 10013
LANGDON QUIN, uptown at Kraushaar,
lays in his paint with the slow deliberation of a builder. Unhurried
accumulations of limpid color, married to careful drawing, lend
an aristocratic calm to figures, landscape,
the occasional still life. Grace notes abound.
His color sense recalls fresco cycles on church walls in the
Italy that he paints with obvious love. There is no illustration
here so shut your eyes and picture skies in the Magi Chapel
of the Palazzo Medici. The eye of memory ascends from off-white
and whispers of pale pink at the horizon, upward into atmospheric
cerulean, sliding toward cobalt in the upper register.
This chromatic hint at celestial light makes magic out of very
simple, homely motifs. A foretaste of paradise carries over
into his own New Hampshire backyard; an abandoned mill across
water from a marina; a row of hedges along a rise in autumn
light. The Italian scenes—View from Mazzolla and
Monte Acuto—are bathed in a golden haze that owes
less to verisimilitude than to Quins own quickening before
Several still lifes, worked in pastel, are included in the
exhibition. These are the least satisfactory entries. The pastels
here are accomplished but oddly lifeless. They lack the contemplative
joy that is conveyed by his paint. Looking at them, I thought
more of Quins apprenticeship at Yale to William Bailey
than about Quins own particular gifts.
A singular exception is one small still life—two kitchen
gloves, an unmatched pair, hang next to a dish cloth on a dowl.
But this is an oil, not a pastel, raising the issue of what
it is about the two mediums that draws from Quin such different
responses. Rendering in oil, he approaches his motif lover-like.
In pastel, he is a workman making a picture.
At first glance, his three-part panel, Working from Life,
seems out of sync with the sensibility on view elsewhere in
the gallery. But look again. There is the same control over
light, more raucous this time but no less measured. There is
that same diagonal slant of light that divides the picture plane
into zones of brightness and coloristic hush. Dense pigment
adds weight to small elements of design. Drawing is deliberate,
the placement of objects just so.
But what chaos is on view! Studio clutter is everywhere. Students
vie for space to work, some resorting to the floor. A couple
waltz with a skeleton, a danse macabre quite suitable
to a classroom with its anatomy props. Natural daylight of one
panel competes against the glare of studio lights in another.
Each panel has its conventional nude model but the central one
is . . . a hermaphrodite?
This is the studio as theater, its productions as calculated
for effect as any other staged performance. Working from
Life is a sly, clever visual essay on the role of art and
the process of art-making. The humor of it only partly disguised
by the seductiveness of the paint.
Jacques Maritain, in his essay Art and Beauty, made
the observation that "there can be no beauty unless the
mind also is in some way rejoiced." It is precisely a quality
of rejoicing—in things seen and things invented, in the
stuff of paint, the disciplines of craft—that makes this
show so satisfying.
Kraushaar Galleries, 724 Fifth Avenue, NYC 10019
Maureen Mullarkey © 2002