Sunday, April 09, 2017

Todd Mckie: Divine Comedy

Don't Look Now, But I Think We Have Company, 
2015, flashe on canvas, 20x16"
courtesy Gallery Naga

You might say that Todd McKie has the best of both worlds, that he is a wonderful painter who also makes us laugh. That his paintings are modern day frescoes by Giotto, on a mission, infused with the Holy Spirit of comedy.

“The Terrible Burden of Beauty” (2007)

And of course this is true. But what is also true is that he carries a double burden because of it, to make something special in paint, and to make it funny. One is hard enough. Two is darn near impossible.

“Please Pass the Sake” (2007), flashe on canvas

In art as in humor, you have to be brave, you have to be willing to be bad to be good. Both can so easily crash and burn. Both take great risks. Both can die a lonely death in complete and utter silence. And yet McKie goes there all day, every day, always has. Which is why his work is so widely beloved. You can't separate the two in him, the art and the humor.  The yin and the yang. The Cheech and the Chong. The right half from the left half of the brain. They are like the two pedals that make his bicycle go.

Todd McKie, "Feeling Any Better? 2007

Not that he is complaining either. Clearly he wouldn't have it any other way. Clearly this is what inspires him, what challenges him, what gets his motor running, what makes him tick, what tickles his funny bone.

Todd McKie, Geometry without Fear, 2001
flashe on canvas, 48" x 36"
Courtesy of Gallery Naga, Boston

There is so much going on in this work. So much that makes these paintings fly. The same is true of the humor. If Todd McKie is Giotto in paint, he is Bill Murray in comedy. His paintings go everywhere: landscape, interior, still life, portrait, surrealism, abstraction, color field, hard edge, action, minimalist, etc, and so do his jokes.

It's a Bird's World, 2014, flashe on canvas, 16x20"
courtesy Gallery Naga

Sight gags, one liners, parody, satire, slap stick, biting, witty, wise cracking, clowning, fooling around, sweet, dry, dumb, playful, contagious, unstoppable, incorrigible, he pokes fun at everyone and everything, especially himself. You can hear his paintings snickering. You can hear them crack themselves up. They are still killing themselves after you've left the room and they can't wait for you to get back so they can have another go.

Redball Express, 1993-- 25.75" x 31.5"

“Truth is Stranger Than Non-Fiction” (2006)

And yet they are beautiful. His goofy, cartoonish, almost stick-figure narratives about life, his life, about love and art, about living on this or some other planet, are beautiful. Giotto beautiful. They are a gift, a pleasure to the eyes, a feast that would make Caligula blush. Gorgeous adventures in color and mark and composition and imagination and invention.

Me and Hue, Babe, 2010, flashe on canvas, 24x20"
courtesy Gallery Naga

And the color! How much time do you have? Can you take the afternoon off? No one living or dead makes color talk, no... sing, no... wax pure poetry, like Todd McKie. He is in a league all his own. And it is not just beautiful color; it is daring, delightful, delicious, brilliant, breathtaking, disturbing, subtle, elegant, dangerous, generous, unexpected, unspeakable, undiscovered, beyond the pale, beyond the horizon, sublime, grimy, grim, and divine. Color alone puts McKie in the Hall.

Happy Arbor Day, 1993-- 27" x 32"

Todd McKie, A Proud Tradition, 36 x 48

“Bird, Interrupted” (2006)

And the same goes for the humor. But what of it? Does he suffer for it? Is he punished, and not taken seriously as an artist because of it? After all, The Martian won best comedy last year. Some people just don't have a sense of humor, or appreciate its stature or critical place in our lives. The Greeks did. Shakespeare did. I'm just saying.

Todd McKie, "Geometry" 2008, Flashe on paper, 22 x 28 inches

An Amazing Likeness, 2007, Flashe on paper, 22 x 28 inches

But oh! To be both! That is indeed a gift. In the worst of times and best of times, we need this. We need this artworld court jester now more than ever. To lighten the king's court. To let the air out of the royal windbag. That is something special! And Todd McKie's paintings are just that! Something special!

Jubilee, 2015, flashe on canvas, 20 x16"

Addison Parks
Spring Hill

"Flora" 1997, monotype, 23 x 30 1/2 inches

Gallery Naga Installation, 2016

Todd McKie

Todd McKie
received his BFA in painting from the Rhode Island School of Design. He has works in various public collections across the country, including the MFA Boston, the Microsoft Corporation in Seattle, and the University of Texas, Austin. For more information please visit Gallery Naga and his website.

Wednesday, April 05, 2017

Rory Parks and Paradise Lost

Rory Parks Installation, NYC

Rory Parks is painter as all things. He is at once artist, author, architect, and engineer. He is poet, philosopher, tinkerer, dreamer, and inventor. He is stage director, stage designer, stage setter and stage driver. He is distracted, head in the clouds, and sleeves rolled up, laser focused. He is composer and conductor and orchestra and soloist and more.

Big Orange Projector (Jukebox), oil on canvas, 89”x21”, 2010

He has always known when something he was painting felt just right. That, ah yes, that'll do. He has that kind of sensibility. That kind of intelligence. That kind of natural talent, genius and ability. A deep well of emotional awareness and goodness and even music. All of that and more.

Four Thought Experiments, oil on canvas, 2011

All of that and more go into each one of his paintings. That is what it takes to bring one of his paintings to life. Like beautifully crafted ships or flying machines. Ready to launch themselves out into the world. He has been making paintings like this since he was a very young man, wise and mature and prolific beyond his years.

not titled, Oil on Canvas, 47"x24.5" 2014

So that is part of the story. Part of what goes into the paintings of Rory Parks. Part of what goes into these constructions that he envisions and executes with extraordinary deliberation. The paintings, the narratives in and behind the paintings, and the experience of the paintings, come together, integrate, to give us something highly evolved, utterly unique, and wholly original.

not titled, Oil on Canvas, 48.75"x25.5" 2014

These are dystopian landscapes the likes of the cave paintings of Lascaux. They tell a Mad Max kind of tale of a civilization hung up on itself, a civilization that lost touch with itself, with the earth, with why we are here. These are beautiful portraits of hubris, of decay, of paradise lost.

Organism Tracks (After Flayed Rabbit), Oil on Canvas Assemblage 2014

We see buildings and bridges and structures like grand arks, withering in the landscape like ancient ruins, lost cities, something out of Planet of the Apes or Aliens. They are above all, however, living, alive, organic, and as such, organisms. They are at once proud and beautiful and even defiant. They stand tall, but they are falling apart.

Blue and White Projector, oil on canvas, 32”x18”, 2009

Within the larger play of his various constructs, devices, lenses, and narratives, there is something else going on. It is his language of painting. His texture. His fabric. His thin lines of pigment that build his surfaces. Where unusual color dialogue sneaks in, sets off sparks, and surprises us. A whole wonderful world unto itself. Delicious strips of paint, bumpy coalescing lengths of juicy brush strokes that Van Gogh would make a meal of, that tell a color story Albers would delight in, brush strokes that are knitted together, cemented together, thatched together. This is his signature style. Where paint acts like paint. Where our itch for the sensuality of paint gets scratched. Where we could happily set up camp. Where we can be intimate with the richly layered painting experience. Where we can be intimate with Rory Parks's paintings.

Rory Parks, 2003, oil on canvas

Parks builds and stretches slightly irregular canvasses that enhance the essential "from the ground up" aesthetic of the work and reinforce the cave painting vibe. Rory Parks as Robinson Crusoe, artist documenting the fall of Western Civilization with his bare hands.

Blue Projector(Book), oil on canvas, 32”x17”, 2009

Interestingly enough some of his inspirations spring directly from just such sources, like St Peters on  the island of Bermuda, where the artist has deep family roots. The 1612 church has been rebuilt many times but the interior provided a rich jumping off point thick with history, culture, and the human stain. The body of paintings pulled from that experience tapped into a world trapped in amber.

Rory Parks, Rose Viewfinder De Facto Organism, oil on canvas, 2007
(inspired by St Peter's interior, Bermuda)

Parks also peoples his paintings with characters. We are not alone. Strange animated forms stand in for us. Abstract inventions consistent and faithful to the abstract nature and mission of the work. These are paintings, first and foremost. They never forget that. They speak through the language of painting, through form and color, mark and composition. Beautifully. Always.

Inside the Monastic Volume of the Calendar, oil on canvas, 2012

Rory Parks, 2004, oil on canvas

There is also this pop culture question imbedded in them. Like the great wall in King Kong, are his brilliant, elaborate, and complex constructions built to keep us out, or something in. This question is unspoken, but it gnaws at us, haunts us, providing just one more motor to a body of work that would seem to generate enough chthonic energy and power, like the cave paintings at Lascaux, to reach across time, to call to us, to wake us from our slumber, to whisper in our ears as we charge, half a league, half a league, half a league onward.

Quity’s Double Blue Cross Pageantry, 18” x 36”; oil on canvas, 2011

Rory Parks, water base paints on board, 2006

Stamps and Envelopes, 2016 Installation, SAC Visual Arts,
 San Antonio, Curated by Norbert Clyde Martinez JR

Artdeal Magazine
Spring Hill, April, 2017

Hang On To Your Hot Lights (installation 2013),
 Oil on Canvas, wooden sculpture/shelving installation 2013

Rory Parks, oil on board, 2012

Four Thought Experiments, Installation detail


Rory Parks, 2013, water base on board

Rory Parks Installation, The Bow Street Gallery, 2016 - 2017

This essay accompanies the Rory Parks painting exhibit currently on display at the Bow Street Gallery.

Rory Parks Installation, The Bow Street Gallery, 2016 - 2017

Rory Parks at the Rema Hort Mann Foundation