A R T   L E T T E R

The Timely Magazine of Art

#31 <previous/ next> Artletter index June 15, 1996

Richard Misrach at the MFAH	8/25

Misrach moralizes on the antagonistic drama between man and nature, 
casting humanity as the heavy. In Desert Fire #153  one man points a rifle
at another; both laughing as the grassland around them burns. Misrach
suggests a vanished human presence by its leavings: a beer can, a tire
track, a bomb crater. The desert is made to serve as a frame, intensifying
the ugliness which takes place within it. In Outdoor Dining, Bonneville Salt
Flats, Utah, 1992   chairs and tables are arranged with a surreal neatness
on an endless, empty salt flat. Misrach arrives with his camera after
everyone has left to document desolation. Misrach aestheticises horrors,
portraying bomb-blasted trucks and maggot infested animals in beautiful
picture postcard images. Bomb Crater and Destroyed Convoy, Bravo 20
Bombing Range, Nevada, 1986  is eerily detached; a reddish crater gapes
like an open sore while in the background, a crumbling post-apocalyptic
plain is strewn with picturesque bits of rusted war machinery. In his
series The Pit,  animal carcasses sprawl in obscene heaps. Although one
would expect to be horrified, the stronger impression is of fine
photographic technique.  Emphasizing color, texture and composition,
Misrach dares the viewer to appreciate these photos on a formal level.-B.D.

Terry Allen Prints at Moody Gallery	? soon

Dirty little etchings suitable for a bathroom stall or a sailor's arm, with an
endearing boneheaded humor. Allen is prevented by the constraints of
printmaking from junking up his work with the usual pretentious
assemblage, leaving his sense of humor and raunchy joi de vivre intact.-B.D.

Matisse: Brook with Aloes at the Menil                           ongoing

Looks best close up. Matisse views the world as a active interplay of
energies, depicted as unruly chunks of color. In a ruckus of viridian streaks,
gray pyramids and blue tentacles the rusty desert rushes down by angles
and setbacks (aloes waving and gesturing) to the brook, where a pool
reflects a glint of violet like a radiant jewel, lying still at the center of
the explosion of rocks, hills, gulleys, and plants it engenders. Water, the
prime mover of the desert landscape communicates directly upwards along
the painting's left edge with the sky, two eternals with all the untidiness
of life squashed in between.-B.D.

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