Michael Luchs @ Simone DeSousa Gallery

Simone DeSousa opens Michael Luchs work On The Fly Online

Installation of Michael Luchs On the Fly, new paintings, All images Courtesy of Simone DeSousa Gallery

We live in interesting times. The corona virus pandemic not only dictates whether we go out to eat or meet friends, it also dictates when we will again be able to see artworks in person. On the Fly, a solo show of new paintings by Michael Luchs, will be at Simone DeSousa Gallery until July 30, but the gallery is temporarily closed. One hopes that the space will re-open before that date. Once the world is up and running again, this exhibit should be on everyone’s list of Detroit’s must-see art events. In the meantime, here’s a brief overview of the work, with images, and some thoughts about viewing–and reviewing–online shows during the current stay-at-home regime.

Michael Luchs, art shaman, painter of signs and symbols and prominent member of the Cass Corridor Movement from the 1960’s and 70’s, remains relevant to Detroit’s contemporary art scene into his 80’s, with a new collection of 19 archetypal paintings  that repeat, amplify and refine his preoccupation with mapping the relationship between the material and the spiritual.

Michael Luchs, Installation, Three Rabbits, 2019, acrylic , mixed paint on paper, each 26” x 40”

The artist’s famous reluctance to talk about his work appears to extend to attaching titles to his images. Every piece in the show is listed as Untitled, with bald sub-headings in parentheses referencing the totemic creatures in each of the paintings–squirrels and guns, rabbit, bird head and fish.  Dates are given (most of the work is recent, from 2019-2020) but the order in which the paintings were produced is not. He might be proclaiming the status of these artworks as platonic forms that exist in the now, outside of time, enduring and immutable.  Or maybe he just resents the prosaic art world requirement that words must be attached to images, interfering with their metaphysical aura.

The paintings in On the Fly are relatively moderate in size, yet manage to convey monumentality with their oversize renderings of the prey animals that populate Luchs’s symbolic world. The artist’s relationship with the ground that he paints on is fraught–he seems determined to aggressively interact with the paper, canvas or panel, stretching, folding, piercing, scratching. With his extensive visual vocabulary of marks and brush strokes, he builds up a tremulous matrix that expresses the essence of the singular totemic animal in each painting.

Michael Luchs, Untitled (Rabbit), 2019, acrylic mixed paints on paper, 26” x 40”

The rabbit appears most often in Luchs’s paintings–there are nine in On the Fly. Lyrical isn’t a term usually applied to his work, but the three sphinx -like acrylic rabbit paintings on paper, stacked one over the other on the gallery’s wall, qualify.  Joyful and exuberant, the red, aqua and yellow palette oscillates satisfyingly with the white of the paper. Bold black brush strokes and jittery marks punctuate and leaven the sweetness of the colors. This is intuitive painting at its best.

Michael Luchs, Untitled (Bird Head), 1999, acrylic, mixed paints, marker on panel, 43” x 29”

Five other rabbit paintings evoke a more ominous mood. Most are aggressively punctured, and their predominantly red color is less vibrant than anxious. Rays of energy or light or some other mysterious life force extend from some of the images, and in a couple of them, a faint intimation of the fish from another set of paintings seems to have slipped into the composition.  From anxiety we progress to full foreboding in the series of three confrontational birds’ heads. These perforated shapes want very badly to be icons, their round skulls reminiscent of halos. They awkwardly inhabit the picture plane with troubling voids in the lower right and left corners of the compositions.

Luchs’s paintings of fish, (and his two older paintings of squirrels and guns) depend less on single fetishistic signs, and more on the subtle interaction of competing symbols.  In the case of the fish paintings, the circular marks referencing rudimentary clocks or wheels vie for dominance with the barely recognizable fish that swims, literally, around. The linear rings, sometimes accompanied by cryptic letters and numbers, propel energies suggesting the cyclical nature of time.

Michael Luchs, Untitled (Fish), 2020, acrylic, mixed paints on canvas, 24” x 36”

It’s very, very hard to make a good painting, and many artists never find their way forward.  One of the cherished rewards of long experience for a  favored few  is their ever-increasing ability to get it right most of the time.  Michael Luchs is one of that lucky and dedicated number. It’s a particularly cruel irony that the paintings in On the Fly, which depend upon visceral physicality for their psychic charge, can only be seen right now at one remove, in cyberspace.

Michael Lukes, Untitled (Squirrels and Guns) 1989, acrylic , mixed paints on paper, mounted on canvas 49” x 33″

Although the gallery is currently closed because of the pandemic, it’s possible that the restrictions on social interaction will be lifted before the closing date on July 30. In the meantime, I am finding that all online exhibitions are not created equal; fortunately, the images on Artsy for On the Fly are quite high resolution, and about as good as any available on the internet. You can view excellent images of the paintings in the exhibit here.

Michael Luchs   On the Fly   April 11 – July 30, 2020   Simone DeSousa Gallery

Queen @ Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History

Queen: From The Collection of CCH Pounder on exhibition at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History

Queen exhibition at Charles Wright Museum install image courtesy of LaToya Cross

“This looks like a movie set,” exclaimed a youthful voice. The brown boy was on a school trip to the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History and expressed his awe and excitement as he and classmates swirled through the ‘Queen’ exhibit.

A movie set? I could see that. When you enter the AT&T Gallery at the Wright, there is a richness  in the collection and a feeling that you’re in the presence of stars.

On loan to the museum by award-winning actress and avid art collector CCH Pounder ( NCIS: New Orleans), the pieces are from her private collection and during my visit, (prior to Gov. Whitaker’s ‘Stay at Home’ executive order due to the vast spread of COVID-19), the Wright had recently received a new visual bringing the exhibition to a total of 53 artworks that explore Black women across four themes: beauty, agency, strength and dignity. The makers of the paintings, mixed-media installations and sculptures are artists from across the African Diaspora.

Curated by Sarah Anita Clunis, Ph.D., from Xavier University of Louisiana,  “Beauty” opens the gallery space and immediately I am fascinated with Willow Moon  by the late Jamaican painter and mixed-media artist, Tamara Natalie Madden. The woman’s brown skin brushed with rich golden hues and highlights of oranges and reds is illuminating. The definition of the collar bone teases the subject’s soft sensuousness.

Tamara Natalie Madden (Jamaican), Willow Moon, “30 x 20”  Oil on canvas, 2009

In Madden’s work, allegories are significant. There’s a mirrored likeness between the woman and the bird perched on her fingers, from the color palette to the focused gaze in their curled eyes. The bird cameo (a staple in Madden’s paintings) represents struggle, survival and freedom – an offering of the makers’ personal story and battle with a rare form of cancer that led to her passing in 2017. The body is adorned by a quilt with intricately designed fabrics. This attention given to the detailed threads is a compliment to Madden’s Jamaican roots where quilting is a form of familial storytelling and clothing complements one’s essential beauty. An aura is projected evoking a message of divine femininity.

Steve Prince’s Angela, Messenger of God follows this artistic motif in relation to spirit and divinity. The hoop earrings and afro puffs make Angela’s spiritual prowess relatable to the everyday girl. Her posture is bold yet relaxed and absent of worry while owning space and possibly controlling the elements surrounding her. The grayscale drawing is symbolically complex but there’s evidence of floating hearts, stretched out hands, and feminine-structured silhouettes. The motion and rhythm in Prince’s line strokes appear as guided spirits dancing amid the stillness of “the messenger.”

Steve Prince Angela, Messenger of God, 48 x 84”, Conte’,  201

A loving and nurturing essence exudes in Earth Mother, a charcoal rendering by Yrneh Gabon Brown. Originally part of Brown’s installation, Memba Mi Tell Yu (Listen Up, Take Note) that addresses climate change and the effect it has on the California ecosystem, respect and care for the environment is represented in this work. She is a source of life, spirituality and healing. She is soft but not fragile and always a warrior.

Yrneh Gabon Brown, Earth Mother, 78 x 53”  Charcoal, 2017

Kine Aw (Senegalese), Coiffeur, 78 x 52” Acrylic, oil and tar, *year not provided*

Memories of going to the hair salon  prompted my liking of Coiffeur;  the coming-of-age essence of getting your hair done in momma’s kitchen and as we got older, your homegirl’s house and eventually graduating to the physical salon or “shop”. The flowy, cool colors and swaying nature of body posture in Kine Aw’s painting feels like a breezy Saturday afternoon among sisters, not necessarily by blood but cultural kinship.

Fritz Koenig (German), Bust of an African Woman, 31 x 20” Bronze, mother of pearl, and marble, 1969

When considering agency, and occupancy of space, women of color have often felt unwelcomed and isolated. The idea that women, Black women specifically, are not enough is an obsolete ideology that is debunked throughout the exhibition. The  slight smile and lifted chin, regal stones, sophisticated clothing and oozing confidence in Bust of an African Woman speaks to ancestry and legacy. With imagination at play, this is my grandmother dressed to mingle and socialize with her peers. The story has a simple theme: dignity.

If I were to create a soundtrack to this exhibition, I’d blend album cuts from Lauryn Hill’s The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, Jamila Woods’ Legacy! Legacy!  and Rapsody’s Eve, making a bold musical gumbo that feeds the soul with honesty, vulnerability and revelation about the depths of womanhood and the Black experience. The artwork for its release would be Harmonia Rosales’ The Birth of Oshun. The intricately detailed  painting is rooted in traditional Nigerian storytelling and shifts the narrative of Sandro Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus, an early renaissance rendering that depicts a white Venus with white Angels flying among her.

Rosales, a contextually clever artist, centers Oshun, painted nude with gold patches representative of the goddesses’ vitiligo, in a seashell surrounded by water and Black angels. The visual is aesthetically appealing and reels you in to the arrival of a deity–pure, sacred and powerful.

Harmonia Rosales (Afro-Cuban American), 55 x 67”, The Birth of Oshun Oil on linen, 2017

‘Queen’ is a visceral experience. The collection encourages the viewer to connect with history, appreciate the present, and admire beauty. We’re taken around the globe with an open invitation to experience a cohesive and complex story that celebrates femininity, identity, power and makings of the Black woman. Perhaps, revealing to the young brown boy visiting with his class that melanated women are indeed, movie star status.

Writer’s Note: Special thank you to Arielle Wallace, Coordinator, External Affairs and Jennifer Evans, Assistant Curator at Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History for their assistance in providing images and artist credits for this review.

*Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and Gov. Whitmer’s extended ‘Stay Home, Stay Safe’ order,  the Charles H. Wright Museum is closed until further notice.

 

 

 

 

Public Art in Detroit

“There is a connection, hard to explain logically but easy to feel between achievement in public life and progress in the arts.” JFK

Culture is at the heart of any great city; integral to its experience and legacy. Without that, its buildings and streets stand cold, feral. The Detroit Institute of Arts’ world class collection was allowed to remain intact through the city’s bankruptcy and continues to be critical to anchoring a community where people don’t just want to visit, but want to invest, live, work and put down roots. The Heidelberg Project endured its share of scathing criticism, and arson, only to stand today as symbol of our fortitude. Charles McGee’s recent sculpture “United We Stand”, installed outside the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, continues that call to creative arms.

DAR archival image of Charles McGee’s United We Stand

Robert Schefman, Faculty Professor at the College of Creative Studies and an artist of over 40 years experience with public shows, commented, “For centuries, public art has been a responsibility for those who governed, and could afford the funding. In America, theoretically, we are the government, and democracy puts responsibility for public work, with the public. I will assume that there is some agreement on the benefits of placing artwork in public for everyone to enjoy, regardless of their position in society, because the communication of ideas and experiences through artwork of any discipline enrich us all.”

However, he continues, “When we talk about public art, we change how we relate to our spaces. Change is a double edged sword, and the changes are not always desired by current residents, no matter how much it will beautify, or improve an environment. A mural is placed in a space that draws more people into the area, and the look of the area, altering the way the current occupant feels about “their” space. People often fight change.” Case in point is the installation of “Waiting”, a 17-foot bronze sculpture by internationally acclaimed artist KAWS. The piece is sort of a cross between a Disney and an M. Night Shyamalan character. To say it provoked a strong response is an understatement. Whether attracted, repelled, confused by it, most can’t resist taking a selfie with it. It does what art is supposed to do, engage with the viewer.

“Waiting” KAWS, 17’ bronze sculpture, image courtesy of Kim Fay.

Born from a public art project on New York City’s High Line, John Sauvé enlisted students from a local school where arts funding had been cut. Very quietly and with little promotion, a silhouette of an orange man sporting a fedora began appearing on city rooftops. Now known as The Man in the City International Sculpture Project, the on-going installation is comprised of 60 sculptures located on the rooftops throughout the City of Detroit and Windsor. The Man in the City Project creates a metaphor for life that transforms the skyline and encourages people to look around. It’s an ingenious vehicle to highlight this city’s sensational architecture as well as prompt the viewer’s sense of their place within the city. In our increasingly busy lives, our faces habitually planted in our handheld screens, the sudden materialization of a bright figure incongruous with its architectural host gives pause and a moment to remember ourselves and our community.

John Sauvé, The Man in the City Project, courtesy Michigan Radio

Until recently public art traditionally consisted of elegant sculpture arranged in neatly manicured gardens or parks leaving two-dimensional art relegated to gallery and museum walls. Graffiti has been around since Lascaux Cave’s Paleolithic I-was-here paintings. Contemporary inscriptions became ubiquitous on any modern city’s decaying buildings. Rough and raw, quickly written, it was considered an emblem of decline and abandonment. As the global spotlight on Detroit’s ravaged neighborhoods grew brighter, images of that blight were distributed worldwide. What those images failed to convey was our soul. Detroiters know how to grind. Our resilience has been historically expressed through note and rhyme. Today, it’s described in canned brushstrokes, metals and ink. Indigenous graffiti has evolved from a name scrawled under a bridge somewhere into beautifully executed pieces displayed proudly where everyone can see them. Bold and immediately recognizable styles envelop buildings from Eastern Market to the Creative Corridor. As Schefman stated, there is resistance to change. Those first towering blasts of color, although legally commissioned, still carried the old stigma. Is it vandalism or is it art?

Pose, the Belt, Detroit, image Kim Fay

One the highest concentrations of street art in the world is The Belt/Z Garage’s international collaboration of writers. You can’t miss Shepard Fairey’s mural on One Campus Martius. His smaller piece “Pattern of Destruction” is part of the Belt, a culturally redefined alley between Broadway and Library Street showcasing a gauntlet of creative minds including Cleon Peterson, Nina Chanel Abney, Pose, Hoxxoh and our own Tiff Massey. Peterson describes his images of faceless street fighters as “a gray world where law breakers and law enforcers are one in the same; a world where ethics have been abandoned in favor of personal entitlement.” Tiff Massey references African culture in her work and says, “It’s always going to be large. It’s always going to be in your face.”  Their work turns a meal, a couple cocktails and a packed gallery opening into a raucous street fair.

Cleon Peterson, Nina Chanel Abney, the Belt, Detroit, image Kim Fay

Hoxxoh, the Belt, Detroit, image Kim Fay

This genre has gotten such attention Detroit hosts the annual event Murals in the Market organized by 1xRun and located primarily in Eastern Market. The sprawling festival draws artists from all over the world. It includes local writers Malt and Fel3000ft who collaborated on a piece for the festival. I caught up with artist Malt, who has prominent aerosol pieces in the Dequindre Cut, Lincoln Street Art Park as well as a few remaining underground tags from when he started writing in 1994. His style was inspired by skateboard graphics from the 80’s. Strong color, hard black lines. He says, “Graffiti has always been here. People evolved and got better. Everyone’s still doing their thing just on a larger scale.” Public interest has helped him out tremendously. Before it was all out of his own pocket. Now he gets commissions and has gallery representation. “There’s been a huge progression over the last 10 years. It’s rad. People respect it. It attracts more people to the city.” He adds, “I’d rather look at a colorful wall than beige cinder block.” Amen.

Malt-Fel3000ft collaboration 1xRun Murals in the Market, courtesy of the artist

Malt – Dequindre Cut, courtesy of the artist

No more cloak of darkness with a backpack full of cans. This art form is legit. Love it or hate it, the work is stunning, fun and livens up how we look at life. I still have mad respect for an old school tag dangling on a freeway overpass. As with any art form, how’d they do that?

*Malt and Freddy Diaz open their two-person show at M Contemporary tentatively April 17

Roy Feldman @ M Contemporary Art

Photographer Roy Feldman’s exhibition at M Contemporary Art: Truth & Grace In Hamtramck

Roy Feldman, Untitiled, Archival Pigment, signed and edition numbered prints, 11 X 14″ All images courtesy of M Contemporary Art.

Truth & Grace in Hamtramck was in the planning for a year and scheduled to open on March 20, 2020, at the M Contemporary Art in Ferndale, but the state order to “Stay at Home” by Governor Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan made those plans impossible.  As a result, I asked the gallery owner, Melannie Chard, to allow me to view the images online and proceed with a review. I had viewed Feldman’s photographs over the years and seen several images in person, which gave me enough perspective to proceed in this peculiar and highly unusual endeavor: write a review from art viewed online.

In the image Untitled, where a woman applies mascara, four planes of focus are: the foreground, head, hands, eyeliner brush, followed by the reflection in the mirror, followed by the interior of the salon, followed by the houses across the street. The viewer is drawn into the center of the image where it is split in half near the eyelid, asymmetry that almost goes unnoticed. All of this feels conscious and unconscious as Feldman probes the variations from black to gray to white.

Roy Feldman, a Detroit-based photographer and Emmy award-winning filmmaker with many years of experience as a photojournalist, grew up in Detroit and earned his BFA from the College of Creative Studies and worked for several years as a commercial photographer. Feldman worked for the Ford Motor Co., General Motors Corp., the U.S. Department of Energy, the North American International Auto Show, the Detroit Jazz Festival Foundation, and Big Boy Restaurants International (to mention a few) to earn a living, all the while he maintained his personal art of still photography.

Roy Feldman, Untitiled, Archival Pigment, signed and edition numbered prints, 11 X 14″

Photography, in general, has undergone a revolution over the past fifty years.  The digital revolution that began with the production of stand-alone cameras, then evolved to the high-quality camera in every smartphone, has had a tremendous effect on the commercial photographic industry.  It has put freelancers out of business, shifted imagery to large stock image corporations like Getty Images, Shutterstock and Adobe Stock, and in combination with the Internet delivery capacity, it gave their images access to clients worldwide.  Also, it instantly made every person with a smartphone a photographer.  I say this because it did not make everyone an artist. It is the gray matter which resides between ones ears, that creates the artist, not in any type of technology old or new.  As we trace that core concept from Daguerreotype, Eastman Kodak, Louis Lumiere, 35 mm Leica, Canon, and Nikon single-lens cameras, Hasselblad and the digital work that began at the AT&T Bell labs in1969, for capturing and creating an image based on pixels, the artists and their application has been the same since the mid-1840s. The capture of a photo image takes place in our hearts, our heads and our souls.

The work of Roy Feldman is a product of seeing and creating an image, no matter what the recording device. I purposely did not ask him about his process, nor these tools, whether digital or film, darkroom or computer because it doesn’t matter. Feldman said. “I wanted them to look like they could have been taken yesterday or 40 years ago. I really want to make it a piece of art. When you take a picture of something, you’re personally involved.”

Roy Feldman, Untitiled, Archival Pigment, signed and edition numbered prints, 11 X 14″

Historically there is a large body of black & white artwork by world-renowned photographers, mostly from the 20th century, that may put Feldman in context: Andre Kertesz, Garry Winogrand, Lee Friedlander, Henri Cartier-Bresson, and Robert Frank, to name only a few. Feldman’s image of a man at a bus stop reminds me of early Kertesz while in Paris, by approaching his subject from above and developing this high contrast crisscross composition, with white-glove action surrounded with the geometric shapes. Feldman works hard at bringing reflections into his images, as he does here with the circular tree grate reflection off the bus stop glass, reminding me of Otto Steinert’s  Pedestrian’s Foot (1950).

Roy Feldman, Untitiled, Archival Pigment, signed and edition numbered prints, 11 X 14″

The strength in Feldman’s composition here at this street fair is the formally centered and dominating woman sitting in the middle of a street, down very low with a wide-angle lens and the right amount of light that provides this kind of crisp focus on the subject and a backdrop of soft-focus using depth of field. In this one point perspective image, the evenness of light is seen on a cloudy day, with a small shadow cast from the concert-style chair, as this young woman views her smartphone. She reminds us of our own humanity.

Roy Feldman, Untitiled, Archival Pigment, signed and edition numbered prints, 11 X 14″

Roy Feldman, Untitiled, Archival Pigment, signed and edition numbered prints, 11 X 14″

Here in this image of a woman walking in the rain we notice the format 2 x 2 provides the square frame.  Feldman’s lens gets wet, creating a spontaneous blur that he likes and keeps.  In addition, for this exhibition, he converts a color image to black and white that fits nicely into the other photos. The strength in the color image is the red coat and blue umbrella center stage, grabbing our attention on the woman holding the umbrella, perhaps on the way to her car.

Roy Feldman, Untitiled, Archival Pigment, signed and edition numbered prints, 11 X 14″

One of the hallmarks of many photographers I have mentioned before is the “moment in time” concept.  There was a time when people would debate calling a photograph art, and this concept would be used in an attempt to differentiate photography from painting or drawing. This artistic prejudice has faded over the years and is now a thing of the past, but more importantly, does it really matter?  I think not. The image that catches a young girl about to jump out the window of a parked van, probably being used as a clubhouse, not so different from Robert Capra’s Death of a Loyalist Soldier (1936), both weighing heavily on a moment in time.  The young girl is looking directly into Feldman’s camera, wondering if she has gotten caught in her escapade, while soft tree leaves in the foreground frame the subject like a 1970’s Kaufman & Broad illustration of their tract homes. (I used to paint those on illustration board for Detroit architect David Hamburg)

What ties the exhibition together is more than the format or dominance of black & white photography. It’s the honesty and humanity of Feldman’s work. He searches out the world of Hamtramck, a separate city with borders inside the City of Detroit, once a working-class Catholic Polish community and now the gateway to more than fifty nationalities. The elderly wooden homes are packed together like sardines, and the artists that live in and around them, live on the edges of life, eking out an existence and a celebration of truthful nomads.

In his statement, “My current ongoing series is devoted to creating an aesthetic event, where there is no political agenda, no documentation, with no intent to describe a subject or place.  If my picture is easily summed up in a sentence, I feel I will have failed. I’d rather it be described as “well you really have to see it.”

Let’s hope that at some point in time, people will be able to do just that.

Photographer Roy Feldman’s exhibition at M Contemporary Art: Truth & Grace In Hamtramck

 

 

James Chatelain: Home is in My Head @ paulkotulaprojects

Installation Image, James Chatelain: Home is in My Head at paulkotulaprojects

“Home is in My Head” is the intriguing, tantalizing title of Jim Chatelain’s display of recent paintings at paulkotulaprojects. Delving into Chatelain’s concept of home is well-nigh irresistible given his usual reluctance to discuss the meaning and sources of his art. Linked to Detroit’s Cass Corridor artists of the 70s and 80s, Chatelain has worked in both abstract and figurative modes throughout his career.

For starters, he plucked the title of his latest display from the 1971 Jackie Lomax album and song whose lyrics describe a loner who discovers, after searching far and wide, that he only feels “at home” when living in his head. Hence, the dozen plus canvases in the show, dating from 2018 – 2020 (with one 2016 exception), focus on the “head” (for the most part) represented frontally or in profile, in bold, eccentric color ways and dark, emphatic contours.

Jim Chatelain, “Untitled,” acrylic and collage on paperboard, 20 x 15” 2019

Moreover, Chatelain’s visages, ranging from life-size to monumental, may be figurative or semi-abstract, as in Untitled from 2019 and Starfish, 2020. In the former, the actual-size head, wrapped in a vine of yellow leaves, is bound with both a crown of thorns and metallic chains. Large teardrops of blood, a recurring motif of the artist, surround the head silhouetted by a greenish aura, while an imprisoning grid offers a partial view of roiling forms within. This unsettling view inward is countered by the liberating, spiraling whiplash of Starfish, whirling out of watery depths (like a waterspout, dancer on toe, or—to stretch a point—the birth of Venus?) while enclosing within its black, red, and yellow contours a chockablock mash-up of fragmented forms.

Jim Chatelain, “Starfish,” acrylic on linen, 35 x 25” 2020

Trunk (2018), another small scale, life-size image, similarly bares Chatelain’s predilection to peel away an exterior surface to expose what is concealed. Here, the “trunk” (of a tree) is also, and primarily, the torso of a human body from armpit to groin, beneath which, after cutting away the bark, a phantasmagoria of staring eyes and layered lengths of wood in yellows and reds is exposed.  Flanked as well by grasping, finger-like nerve endings (or lightning, electrified tendrils?), both body and nature reveal more than meets the eye.

Jim Chatelain, “Trunk,” acrylic on canvas, 26 x 18” 2018

Layers of imagery also dominate the lurking, looming, twice life-size specter of 2018’s Untitled. The large, bristling head, with curling, upturned braids, appears to be wearing a balaclava, but one with a peak reminiscent of a loose-fitting stocking cap. Apparently attired in a black turtleneck, fingers extending downward and upward near the mouth or chin evoke a worrisome gesture. On the picture plane, a delicate white form, perhaps referencing a hat or boat, floats lightly and elegantly in front of the frightening, masked presence behind. The eerie Prussian blue, grass green, sky blue, and luminous white hues reinforce the impact of a stunning, double-take image composed of disparate elements.

Jim Chatelain, “Untitled,” acrylic on linen, 34 x 26” 2018

Four monumental images of 2020 (each 53 x 40 in.) dominate the show and confirm the ongoing importance of Chatelain’s “home in my head” variances. (Additional examples reside in the artist’s studio.) Two currently on view illustrate again the artist’s dichotomous figurative/abstract models that heighten the pictorial dynamic of the exhibition. And since both are untitled, Chatelain leaves us somewhat on our own to ferret out their mysteries. In Untitled, the sharply incised profile of a little over four foot tall head with wide open, saw-toothed maw ingesting tiny circular morsels startles. The spine-like tree trunk on the right curls around and into the brain that, subdivided into numerous chambers, is replete with multifarious shapes surging through the cavity, including several droplets of blood. Sentient life, in an ominous, darkling universe, seems rife with blood, sweat, and tears.

Jim Chatelain, “Untitled,” acrylic on canvas, 53 x 40” 2020

Untitled, however, is vessel shaped rather than head-like, with vaguely hieroglyphic or alphabetic shapes inscribed on black tablets/slabs crowned with several eye-like roundels. The flattened shapes and bold black, white, and red color scheme are regally enhanced by a wavy fringe of filaments (a cape, robe, or drapery?) that vivifies the perimeter of the composition. Of particular note, a surreal, floating hand stabilizes the composition and adds a human touch, perhaps suggestive of a stabilizing hand or the positioning of hands in a traditional half-length portrait.

Jim Chatelain, “Untitled,” acrylic on canvas, 53 x 40” 2020 (All images courtesy of paulkotulprojects)

All told, Chatelain has presented a discombobulating compound of heads (primarily) whose chameleon-like extremes present an ambitious, many-faceted hunt for Home. His dozen plus “homes” or dwellings encompass and express contradictory states of mind, moods, personas, temperaments, identities, attitudes, fears, and emotions, basically what we sum up as the human condition. Uncozy and unruly as his findings may be, all are ultimately revelatory re the universal quest to “know thyself.”

Jim Chatelain: Home is in My Mind is on view at paulkotulaprojects through April 4, 2020