at the Contemporary Art Gallery
Arcadia: The Recent Paintings of Bill Komodore
September 10 - October 16, 2009
In the exhibition Arcadia: The Recent Paintings of Bill Komodore, the autobiographical reveals aspects of the universal. What contemporary painter can you think of who can depict such universally appealing subject matter from such a varied personal history? In this exhibit alone we see depictions of microphones abandoned on a stage (Oram Street Bash), a duck captured from a pond becomes a meal for a poor Tulane University student from Burma, (Slow Cooked Duck), and a farewell tribute to Komodore’s much loved Toyota truck, (Goodbye Fluffymobile), render the myth of personal history into sagas worthy of painting and a life well lived. What he has mastered in these paintings is a sense of comic surprise. His above-mentioned paintings adhere to what Conrad Hyers has identified as the comic spirit in Zen when he writes, “There is often a kind of comic midwifery in the Socratic sense of a technique for precipitating (or provoking) an inner realization of the truth”. The Zen monk – painters understood this principle and exercised it often in their ink brush pictures. Compare Komodore’s Slow Cooked Duck, with Sengai Gibon’s (1751 – 1837) Frog in Zen Meditation, and Hakuin Ekaku’s (1685 – 1768) Ant on a Stone Mill, and one can see that humor’s place in nature is basic and cross-cultural.
Not all of Komodore’s paintings are necessarily pointedly humorous. Some are simply awe struck. Glow Worm was inspired by a trip Komodore and Shannon took to New Zealand where they discovered, set against a rock, millions of lights illuminating from threads extended out of the worm’s bodies. The dark green painting, Everlasting Tree, pays homage to an imagined tree that never dies. Arcadia is a real place, a land of Komodore’s ancestors, and as he has stated - in relationship to his painting, it is more; “Arcadia is the bucolic land of shepherds, beautiful nymphs, and satyrs. It is also a mystical place of the mind, a parallel universe where art is conceived and perceived. There, communication is instantaneous and leaves no doubt as to the seriousness of the work. Such work, conceived in the Arcadian landscape, needs a technique that appears simple but at a second glance is more complicated. This is the way of painting. Painting is viewed at a glance, yet in this, there is a time-consuming space. Like Heraclitus’ river, one cannot enter the same painting twice. What appears easy to traverse proves otherwise; the comic can be tragic, the bottom layer may be on top. This ambiguity enhances the meaning of a work.”
To visit Komodore in his studio home is a treat and a feast for the eyes. Large paintings are stacked in the living room, at times, twenty deep. A natural and gifted story teller, nearly everything in life seems of interest to him. He is casual about his past relationships with artists, some internationally known, including his friendship with Mark Rothko. On one visit to his home, I spotted framed in the corner of the room, an envelope, addressed to him from Giorgio Morandi, dated 1957, when Komodore was residing in Florida. The art world and its gossip is great fodder for storytelling, but it is the larger issues of human nature in all its hilarious twists and turns that really interest him and drive his painting. Mythology, history, sense of place and time are his autobiographical muses.
Over his long career Komodore has developed a sagacious knowledge of color and its optical traits. This he melds with the urgency of mark making that acts literally as gestural drawing, moving on and through his painted field of layered color. His entire picture must stand up to a sense of time-consuming space, and the ambiguity that exists between what is seen and what is felt. There is a giddy sense of surprise in viewing these paintings. In My Arcadia, a goat emerges out of a scumbled field of white, confronting in the lower right hand corner of the composition a tree trunk-shaped smokestack. Symbolically, the bucolic landscape encroaches upon the polluting city, creating an ambiguous colored space, or as Komodore has explained, “White creates a space that does not exist”.
To his critics, those in the art world obsessed with classifications and complaining that he does not have a “unified style”, Komodore responds by acknowledging his autobiographical source, “ My unified style is actually the fact that only I could have done these paintings”. Arcadia is a place of myth, history, and time. It is many lands, including the land of the imagination. There is no room for bitterness or coy sentimentality in Komodore’s painted Arcadia, just myth and life itself presented to us in all its Dionysian wonder.
(excerpt from the essay "Arcadia: The Recent Paintings of Bill Komodore" by Jim Edwards, curator)
HBU ARTIST IN RESIDENCE SERIES: MICHAEL ROQUE COLLINS
March 5 - April 17, 2009
From Ruins to Resurrection: The Sacred Landscapes of Michael Roque Collins Michael Collins’ relationship to painting is physical and spiritual, and his use of the landscape as subject matter is filled with the deepest intuitions of the human spirit. His paintings respond to observed forms of nature and human presence; the depiction of trees, rocks and architecture, render the world as a constantly evolving organism. As an expressionistic painter his suggestion of the apocalyptic brings a tension and feeling of tragedy to his art. As a Christian artist, he infuses his canvases with a sense of redemption, as indicated by the dazzling sources of light which illuminates the otherwise dark, earth-bound forms.
The seven oil on linen paintings and six small scale watercolors that comprise Collins’ exhibition in the UAC Gallery at Houston Baptist University have been completed in the last eight years. Several of the paintings have recently been repainted; Safe in the Gulf Coast was begun in 2001 and completed at the end of 2008, and Southern Crosses was initially started in 2005 and given added touches of warmer tones just a few weeks ago. Poet’s Garden, 2003-2005 was most recently featured, from September 16- October 7, 2008, in his one person exhibition, Paisales Sagrados (Sacred Landscapes), at Sala de Arte Felipe Cossio del Pomar in San Isidro, Lima, Peru. In the hallway of the UAC Gallery, Collins has collaborated with his friend and fellow HBU faculty member, Hans Molzberger in the sculptural and paintings on photographs installation Walking on Ashes, a collaboration that these two artists have previously shown last summer in the Munchskirche Museum in Salzwedel, Germany and most recently in the large hallway of HBU’s Morris Cultural Art Center on the eve of former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright’s lecture on the Holocaust. Walking on Ashes represents Collins’ and Molzberger’s artistic response to their visits to Nazi concentration camps in Germany and Poland.
I would like to especially thank the collectors of Michael Collins who have generously loaned paintings to this exhibition; Carroll Goodman, John Goodman, Greg and Beth Looser and the LewAllen Contemporary, Santa Fe, New Mexico. From Houston Baptist University, I am grateful for the continued support of President and Mrs. Robert Sloan, Provost Paul Bonicelli and COAH Dean Diane Lovell. Also, my thanks to Assistant Gallery Director Sheila Swift Hurst, who designed this brochure and is a valuable colleague in the production of all UAC Gallery exhibitions; And for my Friend Michael Roque Collins, Artist in Residence and Chair of the Art Department at Houston Baptist University, his art is an inspiration to us all. Last year, in a conversation about late 20th Century painting, and the art world’s momentarily lost confidence in the art of paintings ability to continue to function as a viable form of expression, Collins said to me, “ I have survived the death of painting to compound its emotion.” The exhibit From Ruin to Resurrection: The Sacred Landscapes of Michael Roque Collins, proves his statement to be true. Jim Edwards Gallery Director/Curator and Associate Professor of Art – Houston Baptist University.
HBU ARTIST IN RESIDENCE SERIES: VIRGIL GROTFELDT
January 15 - February 27, 2009
The number 274296 was Grotfeldt's patient number at M.D. Anderson. In the words of Jim Edwards, curator of the UAC Gallery, "The 16 oil paintings on MRI scans that comprise the core of this exhibition attest to his artistic ability to make the most profound human statement in a personal and human manner.... these paintings represent, in the truest sense, the power of the human spirit."