'Jobbers,' 'Dreams' 

Representational fantasy at UALR.

click to enlarge 'HANDS ACROSS AMERICA': Robert McCann painting in wrestling-themed "Jobbers, Heels and Faces" at UALR.
  • 'HANDS ACROSS AMERICA': Robert McCann painting in wrestling-themed "Jobbers, Heels and Faces" at UALR.

Sometimes, I'm afraid to go to art exhibits for review purposes. Sometimes, it's fear of the subject matter, for whatever reason. Fear that I won't "get it" in the way the artist meant. Surely, this puts me in the same boat as a lot of people, whether a visit to the gallery must be followed by a review or not.

So it was with "Jobbers, Heels and Faces — Robert McCann," paintings inspired by professional wrestling at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock: A) Pro wrestling isn't exactly my thing. In the dark ages, my childhood, pro wrestling was Saturday afternoon television fare, something to dread. B) The images sent by gallery director Brad Cushman included an image of a wrestler urinating on a smashed car, an updated Hieronymus Bosch image out of hell.

Yet, A) Cushman could identify the wrestlers in these scenes and on a tour was enjoying them immensely and B) students at UALR instantly identified the wrecked car in McCann's "Dollar Tree" as the car in the "Dukes of Hazzard," creating another touchpoint in what is an otherwise surreal body of work, set not in the ring but in locales of icky American commercialism: Outside fast-food joints on streets lined with cheap stores and crass billboards.

The wrestlers and other characters are chunky and painted in static poses, as if they were dolls posed by the artist; they are McCann's version of history painting. Inspired, Cushman said, by static damage you might see on worn-out VHS tapes or bad transmissions, McCann has added abstract impasto brushstrokes creating multicolored chevrons over sections of the paintings. Other places in the paintings are thick globs or smears. In places, thin lines of pink and green form grids over the images; elsewhere diamond patterns fill in the background.

Paradoxically, the abstract swipes add a bit of reality to these bizarre scenes of costumed men engaged in fisticuffs on the streets and in the shopping malls, turning the scenes into dramas rather than true history.

McCann himself says he has two goals in his work: to engage the viewer "with the intersections of role-playing, fiction, fantasy and history; and cause the viewer to reflect "on the relationships between painting, time and the body."

click to enlarge 'ST. ANTHONY APPEARS TO TONY': Douglas Bourgeois' detailed work in "Awakened by These Dreams" at UALR.
  • 'ST. ANTHONY APPEARS TO TONY': Douglas Bourgeois' detailed work in "Awakened by These Dreams" at UALR.

More proof that painting is not dead can be found in the Maners-Pappas gallery across from the McCann show. Douglas Bourgeois' "Awakened by These Dreams" are scenes of fantasy painted in the most mind-boggling meticulous hand, one-hair brushstrokes that create tiny live oak leaves, palmetto blades, a man's tattoos. Bourgeois falls in what in the 21st century appears to be the school of the obsessive mark-making, though many of those artists are working abstractly. Bourgeois uses a hyperrealistic brushstroke to create work that is representational but not realistic; the lines don't create dimension. There's a lot to look at here: In "Detour," a man carrying a suitcase and a lantern is walking through a forest of sinuous and broken trunks of trees under a full moon; a tiny compass lies on the ground between him and a green metal lawn chair. In "Lullabye," a skull-faced robot is connected to a heart in a bell jar atop a record playing, one supposes, the music by the woman who appears where the robot's heart should be. In "St. Anthony Appears to Tony," the saint, with a flat halo of gold leaf, has appeared in an attic bedroom wallpapered in Mary's burning hearts; Tony is shirtless, tattooed and has a black-blue 5 o'clock shadow. These offer often funny, always fascinating narratives.

Yes, you have to park a distance from the Fine Arts Building at UALR to get to the galleries. Don't let that stop you; these are fine exhibitions. The McCann show goes down March 4; the Bourgeois show goes down Feb. 26.


Speaking of Robert McCann, Brad Cushman


Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

More by Leslie Newell Peacock

Most Shared

  • Sarah Huckabee Sanders to be deputy White House press secretary

    Donald Trump announced additional White House staff today, notably including Sarah Huckabee Sanders, deputy assistant to the president and principal deputy press secretary.
  • Legislation filed for $10 million school voucher program

    The legislation to vastly expand transfer of state tax dollars to private schools came before the school choice day event I mentioned earlier.
  • Watch the trailer for 'Shelter,' the Renaud Bros. new doc on homeless kids in New Orleans

    Check out the trailer for "Shelter," the Renaud Bros. new feature-length documentary about homeless teens navigating life on the streets of New Orleans with the help of Covenant House, the longstanding French Quarter shelter for homeless kids.
  • Trumpeting

    When President-elect Trump announced he would, in a few days, force Congress to enact comprehensive health insurance for everyone, poor or rich, that would provide better and cheaper care than they've ever gotten, you had to wonder whether this guy is a miracle worker or a fool.
  • Putin and Trump

    Here's a thought exercise: What do you suppose would happen if Russian strongman Vladimir Putin decided to clarify remarks he reportedly made about Donald Trump during the election campaign?

Latest in Art Notes

Visit Arkansas

1.73-carat diamond found at Crater of Diamonds State Park

1.73-carat diamond found at Crater of Diamonds State Park

Jack Pearadin and Doug Nelsen found a 1.73-carat diamond after nearly a year of searching the park's field.

Event Calendar

« »


1 2 3 4 5 6 7
8 9 10 11 12 13 14
15 16 17 18 19 20 21
22 23 24 25 26 27 28
29 30 31  

© 2017 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation