Monday, April 02, 2012

Cecil Touchon + David Carlson

Cecil Touchon, PDP452, a.c, 36 x 36 in
My art review of a show in November 2011

Cohn Drennan Contemporary has a great eye for pairing artists and this month is no exception. The gallery has paired theorist and artist Cecil Touchon with artist David Carlson. With a title like “Fluxus Language/Taoist Geometry,” I feel I can nerd it up a bit with my thoughts on philosophy and art history, so please excuse my indulgence. Visually this show complements and contrasts like the push and pull of Hegelian dialectic, but with no clear synthesis.

The majority of Cecil Touchon’s works in the show consist of breaking apart text and letters into shapes and lines. Touchon is deconstructing text in ways I would imagine the philosopher Jacques Derrida might have if he were a painter. You get a sense that each part of the painting is made of words, but Touchon leaves his art unreadable. Since the invention of printing press, the Latin based alphabet seems to have run into an aesthetics decline, unless you are font-head like me. However, Touchon and artists like him have been breaking up words to allow us to see the beauty of the text. From the cross of the ‘t’ to the curve of the ‘o’, these paintings let us pause upon the letter forms, without distracting us through reading a message.

Touchon’s application of paint reminds me of the 20th century abstract painting of Stuart Davis, and the composition uses elements of collage that reflect an almost cubist senility. I can easily imagine Touchon giving us multiple perspectives of words, in the same way Picasso approached the portrait. His black and white paintings of lines overlapping in a kind of gesture of layered writing caught my eye, because these few paintings were very different from the rest of the show. They seem to be taking the investigation of line and gesture in a very different direction.

David Carlson’s paintings also brake up shapes, but the colors are vivid as a Vorticism. Carlson’s painting ranges from flat texture to an almost relief sculpture of painted thickness. White lines of paint seem to draw rounded patterns that are repeated in the thick colorful relief paint. Carlson’s lines flow and stop abruptly, much in the same way as Touchon’s work. Carlson also strips out the conceptual and symbolic ideas for a more material message. These art works are about paint and painting. The geometric shapes only help to emphasize the different uses and qualities of paint.

Cecil Touchon has a very intellectual, conceptual approach, where as David Carlson seems to have a more stripped down, clear headed Zen process. But somehow, this contrast seems to yield a few similarities that make the two artists complementary to one another. I hope you get to see this show. And don’t forget to peek in their new extra storage space. “Fluxus Language/Taoist Geometry,” runs through November 12th.
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