Friday, October 19, 2007
Ian Whitmore at G Fine Art
by Lauren Rice
Last spring, I entered unannounced into G Fine Art and requested a private viewing of paintings by Ian Whitmore. I remember being disappointed that I was only able to see a few small paintings. I also recall being dissatisfied with the (dare I say) quality of Whitmore’s work in person after being impressed by several reproductions online. I am happy to say that I was able to attend an opening of Whitmore’s current solo show Honi soit qui mal y pense at G Fine Art in September. This not only gave me to opportunity to drink some wine while reviewing the works, but also to see a greater number of Whitmore’s paintings.
Although people watching at the crowded opening was almost as intriguing (and as disparate!) as the paintings on view, I was able to squeeze my way through the crowd to see the show. One painting caught my eye immediately--Chase, a rainbowy oil on canvas. This work was perhaps the most similar in style to the older work that I had seen online because it combined gestural abstraction with hidden figurative elements. However it was of even greater interest to me than his previous work. Despite the painting’s obvious Cecily Brown influence, it was much cleverer than Whitmore’s older work. Again, I must refer to my review last semester where I wondered if Whitmore was challenging his own capabilities as an artist. This sneaky painting made me feel as though he was starting to. Although the painting utilizes trendy saccharine colors (and I was not clear to what end), I felt that the artist had spent time on this work. It gave me hope for young Mr. Whitmore.
Another painting I liked, Unharboring, is a centripetal blob of brown painty marks on a delicately patterned pink background. Whitmore’s use of pattern here was surprising to me; I had not seen it before in his work. I must wonder if Whitmore is succumbing to the present pattern trend, or if he is sincerely interested in the relationship between the decorative and “Fine Art.” Is he jumping on or criticizing this trend?
What is of most interest to me is how Whitmore manages to exhibit typically contradictory styles of painting. Whitmore’s series entitled Manomania Portraits depicts figures from the current governing party and are completely figurative. How does he ride this line, I wonder? As one who has once been accused of making “group shows,” I can only guess. It is clear that all the works on view,be they figurative or abstract, were made by the same (purposefully sloppy) hand, although the relationship between them is suspect. It’s strange; I am both impressed and concerned by ever-changing Whitmore’s stylistic tactics.
Regardless of my suspicions, I like Whitmore’s paintings. They are easy to like. Maybe too easy?