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"Shane Guffogg: Communion"
2009-01-10 until 2009-02-16
Leslie Sacks Fine Art
Los Angeles, CA, USA United States of America

Color is by far the most prominent aspect of Guffogg’s current paintings, which can be expressed as an equation whereby the raw power of color is contained by the strength of pattern (as determined by its clarity and intensity). While this is an accurate analysis it doesn’t get at the essence of the work. The paintings in this show project the primal force and coherent intelligence of nature consciously experienced as an integrated whole. From another perspective there is a decidedly sensual side to Guffogg’s work, but it is never merely carnal, nor merely a decorative carnival of color policed by pattern. The interwoven elements are too well organized and spontaneous to be either riotous or rigid. His works, like nature, are so consistently well integrated as to constitute a complete reality in and of themselves, and it is ultimately this integrity rather than color that most deeply involves the viewer.

Guffogg’s imagery exists within the classical Western illusion of three dimensional space as opposed to being presented primarily on the surface of the painting which the critic and champion of abstract expressionism, Clement Greenberg, referred to as the “picture plane.” Guffogg’s counter to the flatness of abstract expressionism presents an ironic wrinkle, as he is fully committed to abstraction. To the same ironic effect, Guffogg further invokes classical Western realism through his use of multiple layers of oil and glaze (sixty or more in some works) and with his prodigious use of light, which is a reference to Rembrandt.

Guffogg’s painting also employs a modernist vocabulary in addition to his fundamentally abstract orientation. This can be seen in irregular linearity related to the automatic writing of surrealist Andre Breton and abstract expressionists Jackson Pollock and Robert Motherwell among others. Guffogg’s use of strong color is specifically inspired by Matisse, whose use of then shockingly intense color in the earliest years of the 20th century helped to define modern art; colors Matisse later combined with patterns drawn from Islamic art.

The point of the forgoing discussion of influences is to demonstrate how Guffogg has integrated seemingly disparate art historical elements into a single, unified expression as regards the practice of painting. This self-titled exhibition, Communion, is best summarized in the artist’s own words: 

The background, middle distance and foreground in these pictures are seen simultaneously, like looking down to the bottom of a pond as the light reflects off the ripples on the surface. These paintings are meant to be contemplative – to be looked at and through - revealing the relationships between the various planes, painterly movements, textures and colors. They are intended as a visual tapestry that explores the interconnectedness of all things.

Works by Shane Guffogg are in the permanent collections of the Armand Hammer Museum of Art, Duke University Museum of Art, Laguna Art Museum, Long Beach Museum of Art, Van Pelt – Dietrich Library University of Pennsylvania, and the Weisman Foundation, among other institutional collections. The artist received a BFA from California Institute of the Arts in 1985 and served as studio assistant to Ed Ruscha from 1989-1996.

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