I have been getting glimpses of Angela Fraleigh’s work on Glasstire for a number of weeks now. The red one, before it had a name, is permanently associated to the name Fraleigh in my brain. The colors of that image were seductive, but there was something unsettling about the battle between the paint and the figure. I somehow felt that there wasn’t enough of a transition between the two. The fluid rush of red paint was swallowing the figures, yet the face was suspiciously free of any spritzes, splashes or drips. But even as little 72 DPI internet images they grabbed my attention.
Approaching the first painting in the show, I noticed the size of the canvas. I had assumed that they were about the standard 3’x4′. Although the 6’x8′ dimensions are large, they are fitting for the images. What did surprise me was my attraction to the paint. I had understood that it was going to be thick and juicy, instead it was liquid and runny. Before seeing them in person, I was comparing the work to Jenny Saville because of the unifying red in both the figure’s skin tone and the hue of what Ms. Fraleigh called the “pours”. Now there isn’t that connection. Instead of presenting themselves as two different forms of the same material, they are two completely different entities fighting for dominance of the image.
After going around the gallery, it was clear to me that as less of the figure was showing, the more successful the painting seemed to be. The familiarity of the human form, whether it be just one organ or one part versus a whole area of the body, it was enough to overwhelm the primal force of the “pours”. I think this relates to the paint acting differently because of application. If both characters were touched the same, then it would look like the figures were being forged, or born, from the paint. But because of the contrast, there is indeed a fight between the two applications. And even though the paint covers more area, the intensity of the gazes and the power of the knuckles control as much, if not more, attention.
Although print and web reproductions make the “pours” look as if they are applied over an already painted image, up close you can see where the figures are painted on top and have a tug-o-war. Some of the more exciting things were happening in the intersection of “pours” and figure as the “pours” look as if they were eating away the paint of the figures. I also enjoyed the richness of the “pours” in the four where the figure was most obscured. They acted in some sense like Nina Rizzo’s paintings, where you are allowed to explore the stillness of a dark hue and the flow of some lighter color running through it, then your looking is suddenly disrupted by the appearance of a body part. Its like a person reaching for that final gasp of breath before they sink into a deep watery grave.
The other three paintings did not have that oomph. I think the figure was overpowering the “pours” and did not allow for the heightened tension. Again, the space hurt the show to some degree. The open area in the middle did not distract me as much this time, as the size of the works demanded a lot of attention. At the same time, it appeared to have put a strain on the lighting capabilities. The gallery was a little dark and the paintings did not seem to have enough light on them. I know that there was some glaring issues and I’m curious to know if that was the reason for the barely perceptible dimness.
Alrighty-then, here I am enjoying my recollection of the paint in this show right after I declare hating paint in my last review. Maybe I ought to have said I am envious or humbled by paint. But the fact that I am having this thought strenghtens my claim. I hate painting, but when it is done right, it looks good. Because I had fun swimming through the four “pour” paintings this show barely eeked out a GREAT. The lighting and the weakness of the other three should have held it down, but the accuracy of intention in the four paintings compared to what the artist and the catalogue talk about hold it up at its rating.
I’ll tell you ’bout what I sees.