June 24, 2008

Alexis Rockman's painterly turn at the Rose

In The Phoenix Greg Cook reports that Alexis Rockman, whose earlier work is often compared to the Museum of Natural History's diorama painting, has adopted an "expressionist action-painting style while holding to the disasters-of-global-climate-change theme. These paintings from 2005 to ’07 are a catalogue of The Day After Tomorrow–style weather calamities: a truck chugging through a blizzard; a fire throwing a big black cloud up at the horizon; the edges of neighborhoods collapsing into mudslides; rusting ships marooned in a desert that was once the Aral Sea; a car on a muddy road with its brake lights glowing as a great big brown beast of a tornado blenders the landscape. It’s like the Weather Channel’s greatest hits, with shout-outs to the 19th-century landscape paintings by the Hudson River School (those fellows who thought nothing was more sublime than getting caught in a downpour). All told, there are four great paintings here, several good ones, and a bunch of mediocre pieces. Too often Rockman’s brushwork and compositions feel generic." Read more.

In The Boston Globe Sebastian Smee writes that
Rockman's attempts to marry this gutsy, semi-abstract idiom with more traditional representation don't quite come off. "Near the bottom of his huge, vertically oriented painting of a blizzard, for instance, is a minuscule snowplow, its switched-on headlights poignantly feeble in this vast, virtually lunar landscape. Other works contain a tiny airplane, a chairlift, irrigated fields, or wind farms. These figurative details, all fastidiously rendered, are dwarfed, in each case, by vast clouds of colored paint that swell, surge, suck, and stream. Despite Rockman's best attempts at uniting them, you can't help feeling that there are two different visual registers at work. And far from producing an interesting tension or dissonance, the clash produces a kind of distraction - a desire in the mind's eye to marry them that is continually frustrated." Read more.

Alexis Rockman: The Weight of Air,” organized by Michael Rush.
Rose Art Museum, Brandeis University, Waltham, MA. Through July 27.

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