Lessons of History | Art Review | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

Seven Days needs your financial support!

Lessons of History 

Art Review: Danilo Gonzalez & Christopher Griffin, new paintings. West Branch Gallery & Sculpture Park, Stowe.

“Exterior 5” by Danilo Gonzalez
  • “Exterior 5” by Danilo Gonzalez

West Branch Gallery & Sculpture Park in Stowe features two strong painters this month in an exhibit with the intriguing title “The Temperature of Color.” Canadian artist Christopher Griffin and Danilo Gonzalez of Burlington have shown internationally, and, though their works are quite different, they complement each other in this shared exhibit. Both use lively lines and a limited range of hues to interesting effect.

In his artist’s statement, Gonzalez cites a particular interest in Picasso, and that seminal force is most evident in his series of expressively painted heads. “Head IX” is a 50-by-56-inch canvas filled with a large countenance. Gray and pale-brown earth tones within simple outlines describe the figure; illegible script runs along the lower area of the piece. The 42-by-54-inch “Head X” is made up of cerulean-blue negative space and patches of grayish skin tones. These line drawings do recall similar works by Picasso.

In addition to the large-scale pieces, Gonzalez includes six 11-by-14-inch heads on paper that are pictorially more complex, with a broader range of mark making. Numbered I-VI, they are compositional and conceptual precursors to the large heads.

Other Gonzalez paintings are labeled “Interiors” or “Exteriors.” “Exterior 5” is a 48-inch-square acrylic populated by vertical shapes in a cubistic space of blue shades. Two green forms and an orange biomorphic element, sited more deeply in the picture plane, create a triadic harmony. Gonzalez plays with mass in the painting by letting fine lines dangle off the forms like drooping string.

“Interior 5” is a monochromatic, 50-by-40-inch vertical composition in red. Again, Gonzalez contrasts fine lines with dimensional objects — in this case, tall beams in vaguely two-point perspective. But, as if to illustrate the show’s title, “Interior 5” is burning hot. The artist’s use of just a few shades of red heightens the intensity of that passionate hue.

Animals are a prominent theme for Griffin; “they represent the pure, the innocent and the spiritual,” according to his artist’s statement. He is apparently also enamored of cave paintings — that prehistoric aesthetic is particularly discernible in Griffin’s 24-by-36-inch “Dusty Sky.” The oil-on-canvas painting is dominated by a large expanse of white-on-white “sky,” while a herd of seven primitive bison trot along the bottom edge. This work seems influenced by the animal drawings in the Grotte de Niaux in the French Pyrénées. Griffin’s creatures are rendered in burnt umber and shrouded in an umber mist, as if sprayed with a Cro-Magnon atomizer.

“Heading to the Front” uses cave painting as a point of departure. The 36-by-24-inch canvas presents a hulking bison in a more frontal pose than those usually seen in Upper Paleolithic art. Again, Griffin’s earthy hues lend an ancient sensibility to the piece. His use of line to create tensions within the animal’s form, however, is his own invention.

Griffin’s palette brightens in “Green Land,” a 44-by-60-inch mystical vista of emerald greens, pale blues and translucent whites. A stick-figure deer appears at the right of the image, and abstract patterns of irregular dots and lines flatten the picture plane. Griffin also mentions children’s art as a visual resource, and certainly in “Green Land” he blends the art of childhood with primitivism in a provocative way. He may be implying that humanity’s earliest examples of visual art reflect a nascent cultural awareness similar to what children experience in any era.

Gonzalez and Griffin both paint with an eye to history as they conjure contemporary figurative imagery. The spaces they create are neither shallow nor particularly deep. The same may be said of the paintings’ content, but there’s nothing wrong with beautiful simplicity.

Got something to say? Send a letter to the editor and we'll publish your feedback in print!

More By This Author

  • Ground Crew
  • Ground Crew

    Art Review: Wendy James, Lynn Rupe and Carolyn Hack, Burlington International Airport
    • Dec 14, 2011
  • Net Gain
  • Net Gain

    Art Review: Barbara Wagner, Green Mountain Fine Art Gallery
    • Dec 7, 2011
  • Branching Out
  • Branching Out

    Art Review: “Trees,” Bryan Memorial Gallery
    • Nov 23, 2011
  • More »

About The Author

Marc Awodey

Marc Awodey

Bio:
Painter, poet, writer, musician, guerilla publisher and numismatist Marc Awodey, 1960-2012, was the Seven Days arts critic for more than a decade before his death at age 51. We all miss him.

Comments


Comments are closed.

Since 2014, Seven Days has allowed readers to comment on all stories posted on our website. While we’ve appreciated the suggestions and insights, the time has come to shut them down — at least temporarily.

While we champion free speech, facts are a matter of life and death during the coronavirus pandemic, and right now Seven Days is prioritizing the production of responsible journalism over moderating online debates between readers.

To criticize, correct or praise our reporting, please send us a letter to the editor. Or send us a tip. We’ll check it out and report the results.

Online comments may return when we have better tech tools for managing them. Thanks for reading.

Latest in Art Review

Keep up with us Seven Days a week!

Sign up for our fun and informative
newsletters:

All content © 2020 Da Capo Publishing, Inc. 255 So. Champlain St. Ste. 5, Burlington, VT 05401  |  Contact Us
Website powered by Foundation