NORMAN LUNDIN
AND
KERRY JAMES MARSHALL

by Marge Bulmer



Norman Lundin, "Studio Still LIfe:
Boxes, Jar and Vase", acrylic on
canvas, 20"36", 1997.

Norman Lundin, "Light Observations: Lemons, Glass, Water & Cloth", acrylic
on canvas, 14"x28", 1997.

(Koplin Gallery, West Hollywood) One cannot imagine two more unlikely companions in an art exhibit than Norman Lundin and Kerry James Marshall. Perhaps we could pair Vermeer with Basquiat. Lundin's cool paintings are all luminous light, trompe l'oiel, the music of Debussy, contemplative, silent, structured studies. Marshall's woodcuts are loaded with Abstract Expressionist gesture, confrontational, aggressive, with the clamoring sound-track of an action movie. Both produce intense work which, despite the fact they are at opposite ends of the aesthetic spectrum, illuminate each other's sensibility and content.

Lundin finds spare poetry in humble, empty rooms, half-filled jars, a vase, some lemons, a lonely chair leaning against a bare wall. Creating a drama of light and shadow, he ensnares the subtleties and suggestive power that evoke an ideal world of beauty. The viewer is captured in a flood of contemplative thought.

Concentrating on fine craftsmanship, which is not only in the smooth application of paint but also in the geometric structure of the work, the emotional content emerges subtley and gradually. A combination of evanescence and superrealism, these paintings speak in whispers or even silence.

 

Kerry James Marshall,
"She's a Good Looking Woman, Her Teeth Even Shine Like Pearls",
2-color woodblock, 10"x14", 1982.

Kerry James Marshall,
"Obtala II",
woodcut monoprint,
11-1/2"x13", 1988.

The empty rooms here are illuminated by light streaming in from a corner window, reflecting on the wall, or glowing on a bare wall from no observable source. The surprise for those familiar with Lundin's past work are textural, mottled backgrounds that appear in a series of still lifes. Lemons make an appearance is some of these that are, unfortunately, too loosely handled in relation to these backgrounds. The nervous energy is not effective next to the quietude evoked in Lundin's other paintings. Further, his flowers tend to lack contrast to these backgrounds, blending too much into the surfaces. More successful are the jar and vase in Studio Still Life: Boxes, Jar and Vase, which are set in front of folded cardboard, tape half-torn casually hanging from the top. The texture of the wall contrasts with the elegant, smoothly painted, and carefully composed objects.

Light behind a lone copper-hued and semi-transparent jar plays against the active surface of a wall, which magically highlights the vessels in Brown Glass Jar. Lundin is able to compel your concentration because the presence and efforts of the artist are minimized. Ironically, it is in the backgrounds that the artist's hand is most apparent.

While Lundin maintains an ever-so-slight evidence of himself in his work, Marshall loudly proclaims his presence. The early woodcuts on view powerfully and shockingly invade your space. The figures shown here fill the front of the picture planes. Marshall never holds back, forcing us to confront conflicting feelings. Marshall manages to expertly frame contained elements of strength.

In She's a Good Looking Woman, Her Teeth Even Shine, a profile of a black woman stands tall, front and center against a field of tall, green grass. Her toothy smile and erect stature communicate a pride, while her nude body suggests a vulnerability. In Obtala II, a sad-eyed black man with what resembles yellow hair grins broadly, teeth clenched. One is at once aware of a menacing element but, at the same time, one can't help but feel compassion for the man, who seems to be experiencing his own fear.

It is significant to note how these two artists can arouse emotion with such dialectally opposed techniques. Marshall compells attention with a cacophonous scream, while Lundin draws you in with quietude.