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Michael Biddle, The Respondent Surface: Paintings 2005-2009

M55 Art
44-02 23rd Street
Long Island City
March 12 - March 29, 2009
Reception: Saturday, March 14, 5 - 8 PM

Michael Biddle’s work is always endowed with a sense of playfulness, which definitely pervades this recent group of paintings. But, there is also an element of disquiet, due in no small part to the tensions that he creates by contrasting a multitude of irregular shapes, surfaces and colors. One cannot help but consider the lessons from Hans Hoffmann, when confronted with, what Hoffmann termed, the “push-pull” of the picture plane. However, Biddle’s palette does not reveal such immediate artifice, with subtle gray shapes that are juxtaposed with warmer hues, often with a more bold and painterly application, again to assist in the tensions that are so important to his elaborate surfaces.

There is a charm to these canvases that resonates with the artist’s sincere experiences throughout the process of artistic creation and they seem devoid of illusion, though the movement throughout the picture plane is definitely some kind of trick. Another of Biddle’s contrasting dynamics are his use of raw, sensitive and fluid lines that delineate shapes or otherwise contain the surfaces that he has worked up to a fat, often heavily textured bravado, with nothing raw about them. In and around these often sculptural textures, there are broad flat planes of paint that are reminiscent of a beautiful Venetian plaster.

These paintings are abstractions, but many of the shapes interact in a lively and whimsical way that is evocative of some sort of primative symbolism, which could be open to multiple interpretations. Further primitive references are inevitable when trying to decipher his emotive use of line, often repeated or morphed into the shapes. Michael Biddle’s titles sometimes give a clue as to how we might reference his meaning, but they do not seem to elucidate so much as complement the work. Basha’s Palace is the largest piece in the show and has a decorative aspect that reminds one of an oriental rug or a multitude of hanging tapestries in a private place. Other works similarly evoke a sense of place: Venice and Blue Lagoon seem to beckon to some far off watery location. Some works are more suggestive of an occurrence than of a location, as in the painting Collapse, with elements seemingly tumbling out from the heart of a tumultuous event. This series of works also appears to be compartmentalized in a way that could refer to the complicated design of a potentate’s exotic sanctum.
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