Friday, May 11, 2012

Lillian Warren

Traffic 17 30 x 30", 2011 - acrylic on mylar

My art review repost a back in February 2012.

The nightmare of traffic and blight of road side power lines is given a second look by artist Lillian Warren at the Pearl MFA, and she finds a sublime beauty that makes you fall in love with the images of rush hour and the road. This is not to say Warren is nostalgic for these images, I dare say she is critical of our tendency for mobility and lack of attention to our true surroundings.

Lillian Warren wants us to stop and smell the exhaust fumes, but she does it in such a way that you kind of enjoy it. Her traffic acrylic painting on Mylar feels as soft and transparent as watercolors. I think using lines of cars and trucks, on a stark white background, is quite an effective way to illustrate our current condition of commute culture. The white background is generally what we experience when driving, otherwise you end up crashing. After all, she is from the suburbs of Knoxville, so from personal experience we both know that their driving environment is a mess. Not that Houston is much better, of course.

The power line paintings are like the other side of the coin to the traffic paintings. Warren is pointing out all that we are missing as we drive by the urban landscape. Although, in real life, these scenes seem uninteresting, but Warren points out this fact and helps us give pause to the state of our driving spaces. Maybe if we slowed down, we might want to improve the landscape with real trees, rather than telephone poles. These paintings also have a more finished look compared to the traffic paintings. The watercolor look has been replaced by solid colors of paint in the traditional realist style.

I think the work displayed together really helps to tell the story of the car in the city. If these works were displayed apart from each other, the total story might not fully come across. I almost wish each piece was paired with the other. The fully rendered paintings are about the stop of the car, where as the translucent paintings feel as if you are speeding by and you are left with only brief memories that are quickly being erased from your mind.

So, stop and go to the Pearl MFA. Warren’s paintings of urban landscapes will be up until April 29th, and Warren will be giving an artist lecture on February 9th.

For more pictures for the show visit

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