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May 27 - June 24, 2006 at Buenaventura Gallery, Ventura

by Ray Zone

“Originally I never meant for my artistic practice to become a profession,” writes Airom Bleicher in his artist’s statement.  “I wanted it to be a pure form of expression.”  Looking at Bleicher’s paintings before reading his statement, that is exactly what I found them to be.  And that is also how the gallery patron should first experience Bleicher’s work, without preconception and without forcing interpretation upon them.  Look at these paintings with a childlike, open mind fully at liberty, as if you are dreaming.  Encounter the images and objects in Bleicher’s work for exactly what they appear to be.

Let me describe some of the paintings, filtering the visual experience through the linear sieve of language, qualifying these descriptions by saying that this is what I see in the paintings. You may well see something else.

“Against the Wind” is dominated by two clashing fields of orange and azure.  It is a landscape upon which a bulky orange sun stares.  Without using his hands, a man seems to be moving, or hurling a table or cart that has a red wheel and four diminutive legs, along the mottled orange ground.  Symmetrically juxtaposed to the man but facing away is the nonchalant figure of a bird with upturned beak.  Both the complementary colors and the irresolute imagery are visually striking, and convey a childlike simplicity.  This characteristic--a kind of assured hesitancy--is common to all of Bleicher’s oil paintings.

“Display” is equally enigmatic.  A simply rendered, naked cartoon woman lounges provocatively on a yellow couch at the center of a very active panorama.  The woman watches a large masculine figure perched on a rock or a TV point down to the ground in front of her with a big right arm emanating a ray of light to form an ovoid object or circle on the ground.  Mysterious circles or spheres seem to hover to no clear purpose in all of Bleicher’s paintings.  To the left of the couch another, smaller man gestures so that a blue circle or sphere seems to float above his right hand.  A stiff but tilted or falling girl in an orange dress watches.  In the active, mottled baby blue sky behind this scenario a mysterious rocket ship, trailing blooms of yellow globes and topped by a transparent sphere, hurtles across the sky toward a floating dress with arms upraised and two conjoined spheres or planets in the sky.  Indeterminate smudges and circles litter the entire yellow and blue solarscape.

"Fruits of Labor," 2006,
oil on canvas, 48 x 36".

"Display," 2006,
oil on canvas, 12 x 24".

"Misunderstanding," 2006,
oil on canvas, 24 x 30".

"Against the Wind," 2006,
oil on canvas, 24 x 36".

I will add one more visual riddle, briefly described, for your mystification.  “Fruits of Labor” depicts an archetypal tree bearing anthropomorphic fruit.  Anomalous winged insects fly around it and a host of tiny humans gesticulate at its base, which could be a fruit salad topped with a yellow car or rocket.  From the branches of the tree flower eyes, faces and eggs.  Meanwhile a single-stemmed plant resembling a toothbrush looks on.

These are open-ended visual conundrums presented with a feeling of innocent pleasure.  Shifting from the holistic, dreaming mind of the right hemisphere of the brain, to the linear, rational and interpretive left hemisphere, let’s return to the artist’s statement.

Bleicher is a psychological researcher who, when still a student, was a serious doodler.  “But even in the most engaging lectures I found my pen slipping, curling and twisting around the lecture text into minuscule imagery,” he writes.  “These pages upon pages of illustrated psychological and philosophical class notes were where the interplay between psychology and visual art began for me.”

Those visual glosses inscribed in the margins of text when the conscious mind is otherwise engaged are the modest source of what we see here.  The doodle and its semi-conscious freedom informs all of Bleicher’s paintings.  You can compare this art to surrealism, outsider art or Philip Guston’s later work but that is like hanging a tag or delimiting label on something primal, inherently itself and whole.

Bleicher notes that “the arts have the capacity to communicate and create ideas and concepts that the syntax of language falls weak against.”  And so he creates “objects that bear the schematized resemblance of external objects but are not a specific exemplar of any one object.”  That’s a very left-hemisphere and linguistic way to describe an exceedingly playful art.

Modestly, Bleicher states that he is working on developing a “clear artistic voice and purpose,” but that “it will be many years before I have refined it.”  Refinement, however, has nothing to do with it.  These images are produced as a balancing act over the great divide between the conscious and unconscious mind, hardly a new concept in art.  Their virtue is that they represent a freely ranging hybrid, unfinished and unaccountable.