Tuesday, March 20, 2007
I thought that I would like Ian Whitmore’s paintings better than I actually do. I will say, however, that the gallery assistant at G Fine Art only pulled out three works for me to view during my visit. Another disclaimer to Whitmore’s credit is that he does not currently have an arranged exhibition as have the subjects of my previous reviews. Last but not least, I also could have called in advance of my surprise visit to see if a more full viewing could have been arranged. However, enough disclaimers—I will be happy to revise my opinion after seeing an entire Whitmore exhibition.
After reviewing Whitmore’s work online, I felt that the artist must be completely engaged with his work. Strangely enough, I had the opposite impression after viewing several works in person. I was told, though, that the works I was shown were “hot off the press”. I also think that they were the easiest to grab quickly. As a former gallery assistant myself, I know that it can be vaguely annoying when a student comes in and asks to be shown work. However, I also know that you never know who anybody is, or, perhaps more importantly, who they will become. Anyhow, I realize that this tangent has little to do with Whitmore’s work, so I will let it go and move on.
Why is it that so much contemporary artwork looks better online and in other reproductions than in the flesh? One of Whitmore’s paintings that I particularly liked online, Blunt Instrument, had such a luscious, painterly quality that it seemed as if the paint had only just been applied. Although, I did respond to Whitmore’s paint application after seeing works in person, the intense freshness that I perceived online was just not as present. The sole abstraction I saw, Living Room, was about 30 x 22 inches and although I liked the tension between the thinness and thickness of the paint application, the piece just did not really do it for me. The colors of the three paintings I saw were incredibly muted which was surprising considering the high chromo colors used in the works online. Also, they all felt very quick and not entirely worked though, like the beginnings of ideas to be further explored. Whitman is very young and is obviously a “talented” painter. However, I did not feel compelled to examine these paintings for any length of time which lead me to conclude that that he did not feel engaged with the paintings either. Overall, I am least interested in his figurative paintings. They feel very flat and disinterested. (Perhaps this is the point. Maybe. But I am not entirely convinced of that either). Furthermore, I feel that the narrative in his abstractions are much more appealing. In Living Room, for instance, it seems as if a giant chandelier has fallen and crushed some huge winged thing. And why are those red arrows squishing upwards out of the rubble? In fact, all of Whitmore’s abstractions have the quality of something just being spilled or broken into a million tiny components (now made up by beautifully applied paint) to sprawl across the canvas. If anything, I wish Whitmore would rely less heavily on the crutch of his painterly touch and really investigate the subject of his paintings.
On the other hand, I will say that I admire Whitmore’s choice to work both figuratively and abstractly. As a young painter with such renowned gallery representation, I realize that this could be a daunting task. It appears he knows that it is more beneficial to continue his investigations as an artist rather than produce multiple “Whitmore’s”. And although I wish he would investigate his ideas further, his choice deserves some respect.