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Landscape Revisited

Jean Arnold
Julian Hatton
Juri Morioka

October 12 - November 9, 2005

In the late eighties, when Neo-expressionism defied the historical pattern and began slowly deflating instead of taking its place behind the next big thing, it became clear that something had changed. Apparently there was no next big thing to replace it. And there has been none since. The idea of art movements as the structural support of Modernism had exhausted itself, leaving a vacuum, soon filled by the rather odd designation of Postmodern. This catch-all term served well to mark the event but offered little toward a critical consensus, other than to note that one of the more salient aspects of Modernism was gone.

Landscape Revisited represents a small contribution to the idea that painting was able to continue unabated, while Modernism stalled, because the art movement structure had actually become an impediment to the art it strived to explain. It is an exhibition that invites you to consider how the critical restructuring currently underway in this new century has not only given artists a badly needed respite from the ideological pressures of Modernism, but has freed them to consider any option, or set of options, outside the narrow historical imperative imposed by a mainstream avant-garde.

Because Modernism had emphasized innovation as a revolutionary activity, it often seemed to place old and new conventions in contention, as is reflected in the military derivation of the term avant-garde. Take pictorial space as an example. Consider shallow cubist space as occupying one end of a scale, and the deeper space of orderly receding planes we associate with the word perspective at the other. Understood in the context of revolution (replacing one order with another) negotiation between them proves difficult - not because fusion is impossible in a strictly formal sense, but because the implication of an adversarial relationship renders any obvious hybrid critically suspect. The closer a painter moves toward either extreme, the more pressure there is to be consistent. De Kooning's women paintings of the nineteen fifties represent the best known attempt to create such a hybrid. And yet, as controversial as they were at the time, they remained clearly on the side of cubism.

What I find notable in the work of Jean Arnold, Julian Hatton and Juri Morioka, is how their individual methods succeed precisely because the ideological conflict between styles has evaporated. These painters are very comfortable making full use of incongruent spatial conventions, and they do so in the context of landscape painting, a genre that depends heavily on spatial reading. They show no hesitation in gliding along the picture plane, nor do they shrink from driving a diagonal to great imaginary distances. The upper region of a canvas may hold color and modulation we would predictably associate with atmospheric conditions, while overlapping shapes address the picture plane in collage-like candor. It is the ease with which they make use of spatial devices that I find so refreshing. Their work appears neither glib nor ironic. It is the pure joy of creating worlds that comes across as the primary function of their otherwise widely disparate techniques.

Jean Arnold prepares her canvases from sketches made while sitting in a moving vehicle. For some of the paintings in this exhibit she made a trip to Reno, Nevada (she lives in Utah) and sat in the front seat opposite the driver of each bus line in town, filling sketch books with images that were taken back to the studio and developed into fully realized pictures. Atmospheric illusion is as integral a part of her work as the floating, dislocated rectangles that hover about the picture plane like after-images of billboards, rear-view mirrors, or any of the unidentifiable visual ephemera one encounters on a highway through our contemporary urban sprawl.

Julian Hatton's approach is a bit more traditional, walking or biking through a landscape and producing sketches, often making several visits to the same place over extended periods. The time he spends absorbing a space is as important as his visualizing his experience in a sketchbook. He will also paint directly on site. His development of pictorial structure is a slow process that is often transferred from one canvas to another on its way to completion. Though his sense of composition is rooted in abstract painting, one can enter and negotiate his space with little difficulty, finding recognizable landmarks along the way that are compositionally and naturally related to their surroundings.

Juri Morioka's canvases are primarily studio creations. There is no exploratory travel or contact with nature other than the artist's habitual attention to everything around her, natural or man made. Though the horizontality of her canvases gives them the unmistakable feel of landscape, their development was intuitive and only recognized as landscape-like after the fact. Her paintings are built of spontaneous minutiae that gently recede and cling to the surface simultaneously. They seem to turn and climb along horizontal bands, giving each picture a terraced feeling, punctuated by small vertical incidents ranging from wide bands of contrasting color to delicate pencil drawings. This band-like reading from side to side along a continuous path is intriguing, not only because it follows the path of the painting's creation, but because her earliest artistic training was in music and dance, both temporal art forms.

Though Arnold, Hatton and Morioka share a similar tendency toward the use of multiple spatial conventions, they do not form a cohesive group in the old Modernist sense. They have taken different paths. Their agendas are personal and their individual styles tied to feeling and vision. Exhibited together as they are here, they give us no definable method to promote, no look to mimic, no ideology to assimilate. And they are not likely to become part of a group, by inclination or conscription. But comparing their work at this moment amplifies the possibilities inherent in each canvas, and ultimately the greater possibilities of painting itself.

Peter Malone



Exhibition checklist

Jean Arnold
Meadowwood: Clockwork
oil on canvas, 2005

East Prater: Nexus
oil on canvas, 2005

oil on canvas, 2005

East Prater: Fair Game
oil on canvas, 2005

oil on canvas, 2005

Julian Hatton
Big White Pine
oil on canvas, 2005

Big Hill
oil on canvas, 2005

Wrap Around
oil on canvas, 2005

Friend of White Pine I
oil on wood, 2005

Friend of White Pine II
oil on wood, 2005

Juri Morioka
Alone with Nature
oil and pencil on canvas, 2005 ...

Never-Ending Changes
oil on canvas, 2004

Perhaps if You Noticed
oil on canvas, 2005

Seeking Water
oil and pencil on canvas, 2005




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