The original article in Uptown Magazine (online)
May 12, 2011 - Uptown Magazine
If these walls could talk...
Two artists exhibit differently romantic paintings of walls
By Sandee Moore
The best part of Ralph Bakshi’s The Streets is Ralph Bakshi. Now 72, bushy haired and bearded, with a gravelly voice and the unique cadences of a New York native, he explains how he went from animator of feature-length cult films to mixed-media painter: "You realize that you’re not here too long. That’s why I was able to leave Hollywood. I just wanted to be an artist — good artist, bad artist, it doesn’t matter."
The Streets is a kind of nostalgic scrapbook of remembered textures: "When I moved to Mexico," he explains, "I was able to see New York." Specifically, the down-at-the-heels immigrant neighbourhood of his youth. "I always loved the way the walls looked — paint layer on paint layer. When the sun would come streaming in the window… I loved it very much." Far removed from this place and time, Bakshi now dreams about old wood, nails and plaster.
He paints on board, layering acrylic thickly and applying evocative bits of stuff, including sweepings from his studio floor; building up a rough architecture with a palette of rusty reds, anemic turquoises and greasy yellows that suggest romantically rickety tenements.
RAW Gallery, with its unique and showy architecture — one wall features a slice in the drywall that exposes the dark, slivery planks beneath it, while the jagged petals of flaking paint cover another — could potentially upstage the works presented there. In this case, however, it underscores the picturesque shabbiness of Bakshi’s work.
RAW’s Joe Kalturnyk and Plastic Paper’s Kier-La Janisse smartly paired the wistful grunginess of Bakshi’s paintings with the slick portrayal of New York’s mean streets in his 1980 film Hey Good Lookin’, projected in RAW’s back room.
What especially added to my enjoyment were the fans and freaks who showed up at the opening to question Bakshi. The archetypical comix fan in a long, leather trench asked pointed questions about the controversy that has dogged Bakshi throughout his career, while local character and animator Ed Ackerman bizarrely insisted that Bakshi’s paintings are, in fact, animations.
Another small exhibition down the street at Semai Gallery also addresses architecture. In luscious oil and alkyd paintings, arms, legs, nipples, ears and partial bodies spill out of cool, sharp drywall. Derek Brueckner’s thin glosses of paint are sensuous and pretty, but the profusion of reflections and projections in some paintings suggest an excess of ideas (layers of mechanical reproduction reproduced by painstaking manual labour, architecture as it relates to the body, the mediation of reality in reflections and projections) fighting for space.
Brueckner has also included photographs of his models in situ in order to illustrate the sources for his paintings (and incidentally underscore the artistry of the models in positioning their bodies in pleasing ways). While the photos clarify the scene, they don’t answer my questions about the process —why are the models sticking their bodies through the wall? Why mirrors and projections?
Paintings of Performance seems to be afraid of beauty, trying to hide the pleasure of the nude in a jumble of concepts.
Sandee Moore left the mild climes of her B.C. home for the warm embrace of the Winnipeg arts community six years ago. She is an intermedia artist, a former director of Video Pool and occasional arts writer.