Return to Articles


November 5, 2005 - January 15, 2006 at Space on Spurgeon Gallery, Orange County

by Bill Lasarow

By his own account a reclusive artist, Patrick Maisano’s paintings form their own narrative tapestry. However much his images solicit the feeling that we are sharing his dream states, their stylistic consistency keeps them firmly rooted within their own cohesive visual world.
That world may be personal, but by virtue of both style and tone there is a close kinship with, indeed a dependence on the precedent of Latin American magical realism, as well as the late romantic Surrealism recently seen in the Long Beach Museum exhibition “Eugene Berman and the Legacy of the Melancholic Sublime.” Touches such as the outsized almond eyes quote Picasso’s Catalonian flavored Surrealism of the 1930s.

Given such roots, it is crucial that there is a high standard of imaginative invention and individual distinction to make the work compelling in its own right. This is exactly what carries established traditions forward: capable new hands that sample but rework visual ideas for a new generation.

The human element shares the stage with animal--real, invented, and especially mutated in Maisano’s vision of things. In “Man at Night” bird-creatures feel like symbols of the standing nude figure’s divided--intellectual and erotic--nature. The male face engages you directly, by no means revealing any sense of inner conflict. Interestingly, the feelings not displayed are transferred to and personalized in the viewer who is observant of these symbols.

Some images, such as “Television” and “Learning to Fly,” incorporate text across the surface. No differentiation is made between foreground and background; the text is as readily incised into a stone column as across the face of a figure, or floating across the sky. Perhaps Maisano is providing an explication of the concepts informing his images, but the effect is to bind word and image. If you felt any hesitation to allow your own thoughts to intrude on the images, this device says that image and word are bound up with one another: If the images are too piecemeal to jigsaw together a certain narrative, well make up you own if you wish.

“Television,” 2005, mixed
media on board, 19 x 24".

“Feast,” 2005, mixed
media on board.

“Man with Green Bird at Night”,
acrylic on canvas, 38” x 15”.

“Learning to Fly,” 2005, collage/
acrylic on canvas, 27 x 17".

Because the actors on this stage are, to varying degrees, familiar and alien, the sweet domesticity of an image such as “Feast” still carries an edge of unease. The paternal and maternal figures convey guardianship, and the children and dog-bird mutant pet are secure in their protected state. The prone figure, painted in blue-gray neutrals, however, is surely not part of this family, but a pierrot, a clown symbolic of the uncertainty of fate that necessarily lurks behind the human condition. The earthy stockiness of each character--barring the joker ‘hidden” beneath the cornucopia laden table--is hardly unique to this image. The quality of stability formally implicit in the figures’ stylization also shows up more literally in images of columns that appear from time to time. But there are concurrent elements, such as the clown, that suggest uncertainty, fragmentation, precariousness.

This edge and strangeness provide the kind of contradiction and darkness that lends depth and power to the best paintings. The down side, as in “Three Friends,” occurs when Maisano limits himself to mere stylized sweetness. Such an image is best suited to the illustration of a children’s book. The eyes become too formulaic, imploring the viewer to be engaged or seduced, rather than taking you into or beyond your self. But such failures, while demonstrating the fine line this artist treads, by no means negate the promise of his best work.