Circle of Friends
Jeremy Mangan and friends shine at Fulcrum
If there are noticeable similarities between the works by the half-dozen artists now on view at Fulcrum Gallery, it is because they are friends who met while living in New York in the early 2000s and have continued to influence each other since - Patrick Berran, Ben Grasso, Jean Pierre Roy, Ryan Scully, Shintaro Okamoto and Jeremy Mangan, all pulled together by Mangan for this show.
What these artists share, beyond skill, inventiveness, and an obvious shared love of art, is a kind of post-modernist surrealistic mindset. Mangan's whiskey barrels tumbling over a cold waterfall and his luminous treasure chest caught up in tree roots are like modern day René Magrittes; and Roy's "The Siege of Syracuse" is like a Salvador Dali painting if Dali had expended more energy on art and less on performance.
Berran and Grasso are the exceptions. There is little trace of surrealism in their paintings. Berran is showing three small abstract paintings of overlapping and interlocking squares and rectangles in acrylic and toner. Within each geometric shape is a pattern of squiggly, splatter-like shapes. His color schemes are simple: blue and red in one painting; blue, red and red-orange in another; and a third in tones of brown with overlapping greenish blocks and super-subtle gray and peach transparencies. There is great complexity hidden within the apparent simplicity in Berran's paintings.
Grasso is showing excellent paintings of leaves and flowers with cheery colors in deliberate dabs of paint. They're like close-ups of tiny sections of Monet landscapes.
Scully paints rock formations and an avocado-like plant in the desert, which are realistic in appearance but highly unlikely to exist in nature. They are classically balanced, smooth as sanded wood, and nuanced in color modulations. "
Okamoto has two drawings of pod-like formations that are like slightly more abstract versions of Scully's impossible plant. There's something evocative and eerie about these.
Roy's single painting, "Siege of Syracuse," is a small picture of a man seated in grassy mountains with a copy of Hieronymus Bosch's "Christ Descent Into Hell" held in his lap. But the Bosch is painted on glass and the man's knees go into and through it. This is the most surrealistic painting in the show. It is amazingly luminous with intricate details that are hypnotic.
Luminosity is also a hallmark of Mangan's paintings, which are realistic scenes that are highly unlikely to ever be seen in this world. "Point Marker" pictures a platform standing in water with a huge splash of water behind it (one can't help but wonder what made the splash) and a broken ladder leading from the water to the top of the platform. "Sending the Barrels" is the one mentioned earlier of wooden whiskey barrels tumbling over a waterfall, and "Treasure for the Taking" is the one with the treasure chest caught up in the roots of a tree. It is believably realistic and natural except for the rays of light shining out of the chest.
There is not a bad painting in this show, and every one is thought-provoking and intriguing.
Circle of Friends, Wednesday & Friday, noon to 6 p.m., through Oct. 14, Fulcrum Gallery, 1308 Martin Luther King Jr. Way, Tacoma