PETER FOLEY: A SURVEY OF THE ARTIST'S WORK, 1995-2017

February 17, 2017

Peter Foley's retrospective (1995-2017) exhibit, showing at the gallery from February 10 to March 10, 2017 and consisting of fifty-six pieces, entices the viewer with a mature and masterful range of visual strategies, from small, vignette-like assemblages mounted on raised wooden panels and minimalist sketches executed with casual fluency to large abstract canvases exhibiting a triumphant gestural use of color. Perfectly controlled drips combine with effortless figurations, sometimes overlapping more subtle rectangular compartments that bring to mind overhead views of labyrinths or ancient storage yards.

 

On an intermediate level, several groups of medium-sized works have the color and texture of thick leather or wooden surfaces, in some cases given thick, glass-like coatings. With figurative or glyph-like markings, they suggest the weathered surfaces of paintings and other furnishings in Central American churches given over to syncretistic forms of Catholicism and anointed with the patina of centuries of smoke from candles and burning censers of copal.

 

A second medium-sized group, utilizing the spines and and other parts salvaged from old books, focus on vaguely erotic omphalus-like images from old engravings and bear the words "raw", "seduce", "void", "martyr", "porn", "sin", and "pith". Rather than using typeface in an ornamental or descriptive manner, these pieces leave the viewer to confront the noumenal substance behind the words.

 

A third grouping of smaller pieces employs rectilinear slats of wood or similar materials of varying thicknesses. These are essentially bas-reliefs demonstrating a compositional skill free of obsessive formulas. It is in the larger pieces, however, that the artist fully transcends the strictures inherent in smaller designs. Not without a hint of traditional romanticism, these works provide the viewer with a well-expressed sense of the triumphant, the lyrical, even the elegiac; of a traveler's moment of arrival in an ancient harbor, with its sounds and smells of weathered marble, dark churches, sarcophagi of long-gone poets and monarchs, evanescent street food, dried fish, old barrels of wine, the shouts and whispers of humanity, exertion, sweat, the rush of traffic, and the sea itself. 

 

 

 

 

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