Cara Ober
ARTnews: Emerging Forces at American Contemporary Gallery 08
2009
Emerging Forces is an explosively diverse menagerie of works from across the American contemporary art spectrum. Relying heavily on painterly surfaces and intense color, Emerging Forces is an enthusiastically crowded exhibit of passionate and personal works by Anne Schutte, Mary Hood, Sangram Majumdar, Anne Mondro, David Kinsey, Billy Colbert, Dan Dudrow, and Morris Mitchell. Comprised of multiple paintings and prints by each artist, Emerging Forces is ambitious in scale, but feels stretched to its limits at times. Despite a high level of quality, craft, and experience, certain individual works dominate others, and this creates rifts between works rather than relationships.

Morris Mitchell’s monumental canvasses stand out from the group in dense slashes of bold color. In ‘Yesterday’, Mitchell collages found lace and a plastic crucifix into a shockingly silver surface, teasing an oddball narrative out of dense, metallic paint. In a similar vein, David Kinsey’s luscious, gooey surfaces abound with toxic, glowing color, although he anchors them within geometric, sci-fi structures. In ‘Yellow Triangle,’ a dark gray background creates a dramatic stage for Kinsey’s thick gobs of swirling pigment, with tantalizing play of surface and space reversals. In a more meditative approach, Dan Dudrow’s colorful abstractions compress an entire contemporary painting vocabulary into formal, repetitive compositions. In ‘Ephesus’, Dudrow gracefully contrasts candy colors with aged textures, and painterly gestures with technically precise marks. Adding a narrative element into the abstract painting framework, Billy Colbert’s paintings layer appropriated imagery over expressionistic fields of color. In ‘Watching things happen when you know you should stop them’ colorful blotches and drips collide with printed pop imagery, simultaneously referencing specific places and events while exposing the artist’s ambivalence to them.

These four painters alone make for a strikingly complete and handsome show, full of muscular visual moves and surprising depth in color. In Emerging Forces, the energy from these works is so voracious and so bold it is difficult for the other, more subtle works to breathe.

By Cara Ober
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