Tuesday, April 26, 2005

San Diego

Spent all day indoors lecturing... but last night I visited my usual secret dining spot, Ortega's again for my fix of poblano mole and of Carnitas.

Tuesday Arts Agenda

The DCist Tuesday Arts Agenda is here.

Anderson on Flynn

Thom Flynn at Osuna Gallery
By John Anderson

For some the talk of collage in art receives a yawn and a "been there, done that." And though their applications have probably been beaten like a dead horse well throughout the last hundred years - since Picasso glued the caned backing of a chair to a canvas and framed it with rope - there is still something intriguing about a bunch of trash glued and stapled together into something. Or, at least, when it is done well it is intriguing, and sometimes seductive.

This seems to be the case for Thom Flynn, who currently has work on display at Osuna Gallery in Bethesda, MD through May 12, 2005.

Though ample work is not on display throughout the space, it does command the gallery well enough to attract attention at the very least from the simple curiosity of the people, if not some time for reflection.

While initial glances at Flynn’s work might evoke the work of artists like Mimmo Rotella and Jacques Villéglé, the relationship ends with poster material and some method of adhesive. Whereas Rotella and Villéglé were prone at times to treat their décollage as found objects, Flynn’s compositions involve both additive and subtractive elements of collage and décollage until so much of the image is lost in the development that what remains is a series of rips across the picture plane.

Flynn’s work reads as drawing. The rips are gestural across the surface with their varied thicks and thins. And, like the master draftsman he is with these rips, Flynn mixes it up just enough to keep the eye moving throughout the composition, yet controlling enough to maintain our attention in the gallery.

Sometimes the rips repeat, piling up one after the other. They intersect, lines lost in the overlap. Flynn lets us know just how much control he has over the compositions, and the compositions do not lose intensity and fall apart with a shift in scale.

The other point of major interest is the thickness of his pieces. They are constructed like topographical maps, with so many peaks and valleys the surface is begging to be touched. Guests of the gallery can often be seen looking from one side of the piece to the other to determine just how thick the pieces are, and how many layers back they can see.

Where things become problematic is twofold. First is the simple way the pieces are unified.

Constructed with staples adhering layer to layer, the final piece is shellacked with a gel medium that provides additional bonding strength to the staples, and arguably holds the whole piece together. While this act of preservation offers an interesting dialogue in contrast to the deteriorating condition in which these posters were found, as a solution it feels "too quickly arrived upon" and not as well planned in consideration to additional issues of texture, variety of surface throughout the composition.

Secondly is a more pressing issue, where does the work go from here? In the last few years Flynn has demonstrated his ability to work in this method throughout several exhibitions. While some might be frustrated trying to "read" the piece through the fragmentary images, it is obviously not necessary, as it is not the artist’s intention. Unfortunately, in the quest to see what information is peering around the tears becomes akin to a Where’s Waldo game, searching for what might be some random body part. In addition, without this style moving forward, it is likely to be relegated as furniture.