Michael Kate puts the abstract on hold this month for a themed show of figurative painting. Curator and artist Brad Nack may have been slightly winking when he said he chose the theme because he wanted to give himself a challenge (he’s in the show with several paintings). But hey, whatever gets the creative juices flowing.
This is a show with ten artists tackling the human figure in various ways, from sci-fi pulp art to the roughest of class sketches. More than any previous show — I believe, anyway — this is meant to be taken as a journey in order, starting at the doors and moving counter-clockwise around MichaelKate. (But if you just want to move right to the back where those comfy recliners are, that’s fine too.)
It’s at the entrance where you’ll find charcoal studies from Dustin Pappas, who is a former DreamWorks animator. These lead to riffs on the looseness of the charcoal study itself, with Isabelle Greene’s, “Interior Volume” focused on a reclining male nude, but the ambiguity of the limbs — are they missing? — and the surrounding detritus, making it look like the aftermath of a violent act. Ms. Greene is best known as a landscape architect in town, but you’d never know from this. Brad Nack’s own figure studies are a step away from his usual cartoonish characters. In “Bather #1” and in several others around the showroom, he uses thick, black outlines, as usual, but here they’re rougher and lumpier, and amorphous, but most probably male figures look melancholic.
Jan Ziegler’s “She Dances” is reminiscent of Matisse, with a female in a red dress losing herself in a deep blue background. It’s one of the most energetic paintings in a show that’s slightly static.
Westmont prof John Carlander’s work is sunny and fun, but also voyeuristic and detached. His “Cancun Series” look like photorealist paintings from afar, but viewed closer, they are looser and more impressionistic. These are figures at a resort, all very Caucasian and on holiday, lost in their own worlds (very few people are talking to each other, despite their numbers). And Mr. Carlander’s “eye” remains far from the action, like the anti-social person longing to take part, but never doing so.
Larry Iwerks is best known for his watercolor landscapes — he’s a member of the Oak Group — but here he’s submitted portraits like “Louisa” that bring order out of watery chaos, colors blending cleverly into each other, loose but controlled. (There’s also something very retro about its look, like book illustrations of the 1960s.)
Tara Patrick’s the most “alternative” of these figures — her bold graphic works feature androgynous heads in profile, usually two to a canvas, with bold, solid colors popping them from the canvas. The titles — “The Syncopators,” “The Exhalers” — are enigmatic, maybe even unnecessary, but they sure are fun.
That’s also the case with Allan Gibbons’ space girl series. Mr. Gibbons showed some odd blow-ups from “Le Mépris” at Roy a few years ago, and that was nothing like these — these large canvases of girls in space, spandex entangled with (space) octopi or brandishing a laser gun, or just hanging out on the surface. They’re enjoyable and relaxing in their use of blue skies and surfaces.
But the star of the show to me is Wayne J. Hoffman, whose “portraits” are either illustrated assemblage (“Clothes Make the Man”) or bold, impressionistic strokes (“Queen of Zambia”). The paintings jump off the wall, drawing the eye no matter where you are in the show.
There are more artists to check out in this show: Jan Ziegler, Catherine Gee, Morris B. Squire, and Karin Aggeler. But all are having fun stepping outside their usual territory. It’s worth a visit.
When: Through Feb. 23, 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.
Mon. – Sat., 11 a.m. – 5 p.m. Sun. Closed Wed.
Where: MichaelKate Interiors and Art Gallery, 132 Santa Barbara St.
Information: michaelkate.com or 963-1411