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Cornelius Quabeck, Critical Mess

Friedrich Petzel Gallery (535 West 22nd)
535 West 22nd Street, 212-680-9467
April 18 - May 17, 2008
Reception: Friday, April 18, 6 - 8 PM
Web Site

The Portrait of a Landscape

“Critical Mess” is an exhibition of eight paintings alluding to our presence in the world. I have used an array of materials from acrylic paint to charcoal to found objects. After reading Dashiell Hammett in San Francisco, I had the idea to create paintings like a writer creates a protagonist for a story. Before writing the story, he will need to imagine the characters, time and setting.

Every painting in this show started with the drawing of a face. Most of these faces are based on classic Hollywood imagery. I worked from black and white photographs of actresses and actors like the young Jane Fonda, Anne Bancroft or Lon Chaney, “the man of a thousand faces”. I wasn’t primarily aiming at visual resemblance. I wanted to create a face of a character just like an actress gives life to a figure in a play or film without being this person. The objects applied to the canvas might hint at the time and setting of the painting. I was applying them as painterly gestures equal to the work of brushes and paint when composing the picture. Originally discarded junk, these items caught my attention when I was walking around San Francisco and Los Angeles just like “Mont Sainte Victoire” caught the attention of Cezanne. The faces in these paintings hover over a fictional land, half cityscape half landscape painted at the bottom of each canvas. This may remind us of how we used to imagine god looking at us and our earthly life. Some of the former junk becomes part of the painted land. Some seem to fly all over the scenery as if blowing in the wind. The junk mirrors daily life in a specific part of the world. Lottery tickets float around. Gym ads, beer bottle corks, toothpicks, Styrofoam, business cards, advertising flyers. Get fit, get drunk, get rich, get laid, get lost! As an artist I reflect on what people pursue in life. Maybe there is no word for it. Maybe it can be pictured.

Cornelius Quabeck
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