One of the ironies of our time is we live in a world increasingly interconnected yet all too often fractured. The rotating axis of pop culture has sped to the point that newspapers contain no news, only echoes from the internet. Information and the reaction to it is almost instantaneous and blissfully free of perspective.
Much of this staccato flow of information and superficial fascination has filtered into the paintings being created as well, reflected in the myriad works commenting on America's obsessions with fame, notoriety, voyeurism, and consumerism. Whether it be harbinger, homage, pledge, dogma or manifesto, the messages are quickly sucked into the spinning tornado of contemporary culture and glimpsed again, if ever, only within the frantic revolutions of the rudderless beast.
It's time we give ourselves a break. We need to imagine again, to pause, be confused, baffled or left in wonder by what our painters are doing. Rather than have our fears and condemnations validated by art characterized by its smugness we need painters to pave the way for new thought, to help us conceive the impossible, and show us the future is a carnival not a Carnival Cruise. We need painters who create ingenious mindscapes who pay homage to their place in the history of art and then up the ante by showing us image-making still has boundaries to be pushed. These are them...
Nathan Redwood's paintings swirl, bubble and engulf the viewer into imagined worlds of surreal expressionism not seen since Philip Guston. He reveals an interest in quotidian objects but energizes them in fantastic fields of melting color that raises the drama to operatic levels. At first glance his work appears highly complex, but in actuality is the result of a virtuosic use of his watered-down medium. With little overworking he commands the brush like a ball point pen rolling along the surface which has been primed smooth like glass.
Within Julie Rofman's paintings objects are embedded, entangled, wedged, compressed and integrated into larger forms that seem to suspend and coalesce as if by magnetism. Her reconstructed environments have a foreboding post-apocalyptic feeling while acheiving pure fantasy at the same time. In Under the Surface of 2008 she juxtaposes past and present architectural achievements, in effect compressing time as well, and showing us the distance between them might as well be the thickness of the waterline. The imagery, such as in Slingshot Gondola which recalls various works of Duchamp like The Large Glass and Bride, is filled with indescribable contraptions balanced by a center void resulting in a composition that might get one a failing grade in art school. Instead Rofman passes with flying colors.
Chris Finley's obsessive art resembles folds, pinches and weaves in the time-space continuum. While he does not confine himself only to painting, his works recall the very beginnings of modernism and reset questions of what can still be the direction of contemporary art. Half inspired by computer graphics and half by modern art fathers Picasso and Duchamp, one might think he's off his rocker for producing work that is so out of touch with the current art market but when you see the fun he's having on this joy ride you can hardly blame him for stealing his parent's car.
By no means are these all of them. There's Terry Winters, John Millei, Julie Mehretu and more. I don't know them all, but I'd like to find them. If you know of one, please share them. We need them now more than ever.