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March 18 - April 15, 2006 at Lawrence Asher Gallery, West Hollywood

by Elenore Welles

"Girl in the Garden,”
2005, oil on canvas, 58 x 47”.

"Cell Phone Holiday Beach Scene,"
2005, oil on canvas, 34 x 26".

"Luxury Goods," 2005
oil on linen, 48 x 72".

"First of its Kind Beautiful Mutation,"
2005, oil on canvas, 48 x 34".
Thomas Frontini’s oil paintings are based on the premise that no matter how we may change and advance technologically, human consciousness is stuck in instinctual traps. Since this sad fact dooms man to a never-ending cycle of repeating past mistakes, Frontini translates dreamlike visions into parables of warning.

Although his fantasies evoke a surface irrationality, they often stem from reality based current events. Add inspiration from ancient myths and art historical traditions, and the layers of meaning are difficult to digest in one gulp. They percolate slowly through a mixture of symbolist alleg ory, ancient mythology and surrealist landscapes.

Like symphonic poems, general themes are loaded with significant elements that stress timelessness. The darkly humorous parable “Cell Phone Holiday Beach Scene,” for instance, depicts a scantily attired mother and child, together adrift on a tiny island. They are surrounded by potted plants and a child’s sand toys. In the distance, dinosaurs roam on an erupting volcano. Since this is a modern dream, mom is on her cell phone.

When 19th century artist Francisco Goya produced “Dreams of Reason Produces Monsters,” he warned that when fantasy abandons reason, it produces monsters. Although Frontini tempers his interior visions with reason, they often mirror depths of fear. In ”The Bold Future--The Battle of the Centaurs,” for instance, Frontini portrays the centaurs as half woman, half horse. Their innocent charm is an ironic twist on the roguish behavior of mythical male centaurs. They are enjoying a game of badminton, seemingly oblivious to the large flume of smoke that emanates from a nuclear plant behind them. The vivid blues of sky and water, plus a bright green lawn add to the incongruity.

Fantasy and reality are always clashing in our consciousness, particularly in our dreams. “The Painter Sees Only What He Believes” represents the essence of “magic realism.” Set within a deep umber landscape, a young boy centaur poses for an artist, who is robed and garlanded like an ancient Greek. What the artist is painting, however, is the head of a horse, a blantantly Freudian image.

Through strange juxtapositions, Frontini evokes the tense pull between present and past. At times his wry critiques of modern culture take a precarious slide into scathing indictments. Monstrous animals and strange hybrids, such as a cross between a sheep and a unicorn, may be genetic cautionary tales. . .beware of cloning.

In “Luxury Goods” it is consumer consumption that gets skewered. The small figure of a well dressed woman stands beside a large workhorse. In the fields below a giant Hummer is pulled by a horse. Although the painting appears childlike and primitive, the sophisticated arrangement and implications are provocative. Could our addiction to consumer goods and oil plunge us into a backward spiral?

The decorative qualities of Frontini’s vines and flowers hover on thethreshold of the absurd, particularly when they threaten to overwhelm the people and animals they surround. But it is also the very sensuousness of the flora and the lushly monstrous fauna that seduce us into Frontini’s extravagant fantasy world.

It’s difficult to assess whether his biomorphic beasties are projections of a psychological state, or manifestations of dreams that forewarn. Beware the dreams of reason . . .they can produce monsters.