Sunday, May 27, 2012

Michael Blair + Blayre Stiller

Michael Blair - Untitled 3-13

A repost of my article for a show in April 2012

Once again the University of North Texas is releasing two more Master of Fine Art students on the world that will inevitably make a mark in the art world. The realistic figure drawings of Blayer Stiller and the abstract paintings of Michael Blair were quite a contrast on the walls of Cohn Drennan Contemporary. Michael Blair’s influences range from children’s art to that of the untrained artists. You can find
this influence in many Modernist painters like Paul Klee or Pablo Picasso, but M. Blair is taking a very different approach. Instead of focusing on the image or product of children’s art, M. Blair is more interested in the way the hand moves to make the marks. Fast unfettered hand gestures fill the space almost like the action painters of the 1940’s. I have taught Kindergarten through seventh grade, and from my observation I can tell that Blair is not overly romanticizing the child artist like the Modernists did, but he captures the motion and movement of the child artist. The combination of his child like marks come together into a clear, sophisticated adult composition. His colors are mixed and richer than something direct from the tube child artist. M. Blair is inspired by children art, but a kid could never create such complex abstract paintings.

I had written about Blayre Stiller when she exhibited this year in two group shows; the 110 Degrees show at Cohn Drennan Contemporary and the Studio Visit 1-1 show at Cris Worley Gallery. But in her MFA show, she has clearly outdone herself this time. Seeing her work when she first started her MFA and looking at the work now, Stiller has made that ever important epiphany that sometimes happens in a graduate program. Her charcoal drawings are crisp, detailed, and full of metaphoric punch. The bodies of people became patterns, and in my favorite pieces the hair seems to grow uncontrollably until it consumes the figure. The stark white background only helped to heighten the realism of the charcoal rendering.

Blayre Stiller and Michael Blair both show a personal kind of art but expressed in such diverse directions. Stiller’s personal self-image is laid out for the viewer in such an emotionally profound way that it is hard not to leave an impression. M. Blair’s feelings are reflected in his movement and application of paint. I think he is helping to add an approach to the language of painting. You and I can look forward to seeing these artists show again soon. This show ends May 5th.

For more images of the show, visit

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