John W. Carlson and Douglas Max Utter: Between Presence and Projection

JANUARY 6 - JANUARY 28, 2017

Longtime friends and colleagues John W. Carlson and Douglas Max Utter join forces to bring us this work which will showcase their provocative handling of materials and subject matter. BAYarts will collaborate with Hedge Gallery to bring this innovative work to our Sullivan Family Gallery.

Opening Reception: Friday, January 6 from 7-9 pm


By Douglas Max Utter

A painting is incurably itself, like a cup that won’t hold water – useless as a tool for relating to real things because it is inevitably flawed; expression isn’t evidence, yet it is valuable. John Carlson and I are among the many artists who happily derive our artistic practice from this fact, because it means that we work in a strange space between the mental and the physical, as we produce our semi-permanent hallucinations; we leave behind, invent, imprints and tracks of the body itself and, thrillingly, traces of the mind. A painting transcends both pictorial intentions and ideas of abstraction. It isn’t science, it isn’t religion. It’s ourselves, or borrows somehow the light of the soul to kindle keener sight.

We decided to call this joint exhibition of our paintings and drawings “Presence and Projection.” By those two words we mean that a picture can have sufficient psychological strength to suggest more than the appearance of things in the world, reminding the viewer , at least on a subconscious level, of her own existence, with all that implies about our shared knowledge of death and experience of life. A drawing may become more powerful, more real, not as it approaches perfect resemblance to a person or a thing, but when it veers away from that perfection in order to answer another call. A painting, a drawing, a work of art is unfinished at its core, incomplete in principle because it recognizes the nature of life and time. A good painting tends toward becoming not another illusion, but a mirror that looks back upon illusion from another place.

I often paint individual people. Lately it’s been important to me to forge a bond through portraiture with actual family members and friends, and to investigate, more fully realize the faces in old family photo albums. But apart from that sort of communion, my aim is make an image of person that is more like a shadow or a reflection than it is like a photograph. It’s possible also to make a picture of a place that brings human presence to mind, without ever presenting a human form. There are many landscapes and still-life’s in the history of art that prove this point, which is why Presence is one of the things that we think our art may invoke.

Some of the works in this show explore the interaction of motion and line and materials – how gesture and symbol, mark and surface can interact to reproduce a sense of the human body moving through space. Others deal with the immersion of the self in the world, evoking the thickness of time and how we swim in the waters of being. But all of them attempt to push through the paper or canvas and bring reality home; to make the spiritual actual. Children do this, people of all times have always made art like this, and we’re trying to do it now, as grown-ups in a very modern place. If something in these works catches your eye, let it linger.

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