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Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Mystery vs. Meaning in the Primitive at Galerie Hertz


Primitive Paintings: Two Views
Justin Vorel and Tad DeSanto

Reviewed by Kaylyn Taylor

Entire contents are copyright © 2013, Kaylyn Taylor. All rights reserved.

Primitive Art connotes a broad range of ideas spanning from objects crafted for daily use by “primitive” cultures to art inspired by the objects, found in “primitivism.” It also refers to art created by self-taught artists, whose pieces lack formal devices and are direct in style.   

Galerie Hertz is currently offering “Primitive Paintings: Two Views,” which features the art of Justin Vorel and Tad DeSanto. These two self-taught artists are an interesting, complementary pairing. Vorel’s pieces are subtle non-representational studies in color, texture and technique, while DeSanto’s are bold compositions of symbols, texture and media. However, both are effective, direct and communicative.

Justin Vorel, Untitled-#6 from "Fragments of Memories Series," 2013.

Justin Vorel’s untitled works from his “Fragments of Memory Series” are mixed media on panel. They range in size from 24" x 24" to 90.5" x 132.75". Many are compositions of smaller units, laid out like tile, or joined panels, creating diptychs and triptychs. The media application is fluid, loose paints, which are allowed to flow into beautiful, interesting blends of color. The artist then drags tools through the paint in broad strokes, creating an overlay of linear patterns that give structure to the looseness of the paint. Only a few actually have an imposed curved line or a completely unstructured approach. His colors are subtle and natural, often analogous. There is an open, impressionistic quality to these pieces. They echo textures and colors found in nature, evoking an unspecified sense of the familiar – as if trying to recall the details of a dream. In this, there is a different kind of primitive. It is pre-verbal and instinctive. Here the impressions of our environment define our reality.

Tad DeSanto, "Thinking Don't Make It So," 2013.

Tad DeSanto travels in a different direction. He is representational, specific in his titles (consider “I’m Fine” or “Thinking So Don’t Make It So”) and simplistic in his imagery. His collages rely also on texture and color and are on panel, yet they have a folk art quality. The pieces are fairly standard in size, ranging from 5.5" x 23.5" to 24" x 24". Compositionally, the pieces are flat, two-dimensional arrangements that are hugely rich in bold colors, contrasting textures and compelling iconography. The depth develops from the complex layering of these elements, drawing the viewer into the details found therein. This is a verbal world, where there are political concerns and life experiences built around societal norms. Still, these works are also “differently primitive.” Through the use of seemingly simplistic imagery, these visually clear pieces tap into an emotional comprehension that alludes to a deeper aspect of understanding. 

The juxtaposition of these two artists creates a bit of a vortex. The unspoken and the spoken, the reliance upon, yet divergent approaches to color, form and texture, and the shared un-classically trained background swirl together. Vorel harkens to the mists of memory, which are undefined, while DeSanto articulates clearly in his figural representation and titles. However, both leave the spectator wondering what the artist means, as each pack his works with information in the details. Vorel goes towards mystery while DeSanto goes towards meaning. 

Primitive Paintings: Two Views

May 26 - June 29, 2013

Tues-Fri: 11 a.m.-5 p.m.; Sat: 11 a.m.-3 p.m.
Galerie Hertz
1253 South Preston Street
Louisville, KY 40201

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