Artists preoccupied with stuff- lots of it.

By Henry Lehman
Published March, 2001

…The seven young artists featured at Galerie Simon Blais have taken a very different artistic route, preferring to stay well within the margins of the modern tradition.  For them, art is still about the power of paint to convey a residue of reality.

In Yann Leroux’s portraits, paint and image vie for attention.  Depicted in one especially striking oil, Ian à l’Ordinateur (Ian at the Computer) is a man intently peering into that bottomless well, the computer screen.  Painted in olive greens with dazzling highlights of yellow, the screen becomes a painting within the actual painting before us. Leroux’s picture sends us a note of warning - painting may ultimately be swallowed by the one-dimensional world of the Net. 

In another of Leroux’s paintings, titled Donald Assis (Donald Seated), the young man-constructed from spindly, painted scribble – is seated on a stool; the figure appears planted squarely in the pre-electronic realm of mid–20th century art, itself not yet killed off by the new millennium.

Also involved with the human figure are two other artists:  Lenny Piroth-Robert’s pallid Watering Hose is a portrait of a woman in perfect profile, giving her face an almost sculptural dimension.  Mary Hayes in her oil Stephane (Diptych) methodically takes inventory of human countenance.

If some of the works are figurative, others mix seeing and scene. This is at the crux of Rafael Sottolichio’s delicious Paysages Americains.  One of these works, based on an Edward Hopper etching, is what might be called a visual quote, both of Hopper’s image and his technique.  It is seen in Sottolichio’s use of monochrome brown and of exaggerated striations, which transform the actual surface of the painting into a kind of man-made landscape.

Also employing visual quotes is Keer Tanchak.  Inside After Lancret features a seemingly opulent 18th century setting in which figures deconstruct into what appear to be puffs of powder.

Landscape, at once ultra natural and exuberantly artificial, is the subject of artists Dominique Goupil and Peter Hoffer.  Goupil’s vistas are almost entirely abstract, with thick, horizontal streaks only alluding to the land. More real are Hoffer’s works, with their references to the tradition of painting.  The glazed surfaces of both Goupil and Hoffer’s paintings have an almost mocking relationship with old masterpieces pickled in varnish.

This show proclaims that painting may be old-fashioned but is undubitably alive and well.

The paintings of the artists Yann Leroux, Lenny Piroth-Robert, Mary Hayes, Raffael Sottolichio, Dominique Goupil, Peter Hoffer and Keer Tanchak are at Galerie Simon Blais, 4521 Clark St., until March 31, 2001.


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