Wednesday, September 05, 2007

peter williams in sante fe

I was so happy to see Peter Williams' recent works on former detroiter (maybe coming back - now living in sante fe), William Hafer's art blog. Looks like Williams did a recidency at the Sante Fe Art Institute. Also be sure to check out Hafer's new bright paintings!


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've always liked George Condo, and I've loved Peter's work. Seems with these portraits Peter is moving closer to Condo with time. I thought a bit of Jim Nutt too, but in a different way -- and he's in today's NY TIMES.

Now in his mid-60's, Mr. Nutt has been painting portraits of imaginary women for about 15 years. He works slowly, with tiny brushes and thinned-down acrylic paint, on laptop-scale canvases, building up luminous, subtly multicolored surfaces like a medieval panel painter. A painting can take as long as a year to complete, which is why this exhibition has only three, as well as a dozen graphite drawings.

The women in Mr. Nutt's paintings look uncannily alive and seem to belong to a certain period: something about their bobbed and waved hairdos, their crew-neck, geometrically patterned sweaters and the muted colors and warm light suggests the 1940's. There is, moreover, a strange emotional appeal to these fictive women; they exude a calmness and a kindness that seem distinctly maternal. (They look about the age Mr. Nutt's own mother would have been when he was a child in the 40's.)

That these images create the impression of attractive real people is surprising because of how abstracted they are. Like a Cubist painter, Mr. Nutt breaks down every part of the face for distinct treatment.

Eyes are misaligned; ears and noses are like little biomorphic sculptures glued onto the head; and the hairdos are wonderful sculptural follies, amalgamations of bulbous volumes, reflective ribbons, fluted wedges and other unpredictably quirky forms.

Mr. Nutt is a supremely elegant and inventive stylist. Over the years he has gathered and cultivated his influences with discriminating care. Echoes of Japanese woodcuts, Picasso and MirĂ³, and the 19th-century American folk artist Ammi Phillips add to the resonance of his paintings. But the abstraction contributes something else to the psychology of the portraits: it makes the women seem a little crazy.

The play with abstraction is more overt and the divergence from normal anatomy greater in Mr. Nutt's drawings. Works of magical delicacy and exactitude, they are mostly linear, with hatchwork shading and areas of pattern included here and there.

Looking at them -- following lines that sweep, loop, fade, stutter, zigzag, squiggle and otherwise cavort about the page as though self-animated -- is to take a kind of visual roller-coaster ride.

The subjects are correspondingly more actively expressive: some seem angry, some distracted, some quite mad. Who are these zany women? Mothers of the artist's invention, maybe.

12:15 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home