Painters look to the past for Dairy show

By J. Gluckstern, Camera Visual Arts Critic
The Daily Camera, Boulder, Colorado
May 11, 2003

excerpt from original article:

Still lifes and portraits were the conventions of a much earlier era of painting, wherein attention to craft and verisimilitude were the standards by which an artist was judged. These days, between the postmodern ethic of weaving together disparate visions and techniques and a general emphasis on innovation over tradition, a bowl of fruit is more likely to end up splattered against a gallery wall than serve as the subject of a painting.

That's not the case with "Old Masters/New Light," an exhibition of traditional oils and sketches by Olga Plam and Joshua Fallik now on display at the Dairy Gallery, and the change of pace serves as a gentle reminder of the formidable history and substance of the art of painting.

Plam and Fallik both cite the Old Masters of 17th-century Europe (Rembrandt, et al) as their primary influences, mostly in terms of how they handle light and composition. Fallik's work here is balanced between still lifes, portraits, assorted sketches and engagingly atmospheric landscapes, while Plam sticks to still lifes marked by elegant arrangements of richly colored vases, flowers and globed fruits.

Historically, the genre of still life represented a departure from religious themes favored by Renaissance painters and was something of a product of the rise of secular society, particularly in Holland. In a way, between its mundane content and its commodification within the art market, still lifes offered artists a way to explore and revel in composition and technique without relying on a Biblical or historical framework to validate their work. For the most part, that "art for art's sake" sensibility seems to be the motivation for Plam's and Fallik's work, though there are a few instances of symbolic decay as seen in the few fallen or beginning to wither blossoms in Plam's "Wild Flowers" or "Oriental Lilies" used to suggest both mortality and immediacy.

One unusual piece by Plam "Adoration," a dramatically lit tableau in which an small Asian figural sculpture seems to be worshipping a pear and a square glass vessel does even more. It's just a trick of the light, but we feel something of life's mystery as well as its presence.


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