Saturday, January 02, 2016


Pulsar Lucidity, Fight Until I'm Broken, 2015,
oil on canvas, 52 x 70 inches repost of my article.

I think in no other time have we come across abstract art in such a state of crisis. You see increasing prevalence of abstract images being knocked off by overseas factories, recognized professional artists making bland paintings that look to be made by any other artist that deskilled her/himself, and finally there is a glut of decorative abstracts.

Much of the really good abstract art being made in painting plays a little with being irreverent to the past traditions, while still being concerned with looking at art and seeing how it is made. Deconstructing the steps of producing an image is part of building an artist’s skillset. When an artist doesn’t look at anyone else’s’ work, rarely if ever will you get creative output that speaks to the times. Deskilling to the point of no skill leads to an artist’s work looking like everyone else. On the opposite end of being irreverent are the artists that pay homage to the Modernist. I’m talking about abstract artists that are rooted in the traditions of intuitive automatic composition. Over the summer, I saw a show of Trey Egan’s which exemplifies this rooted breed of artists.

This is the last weekend of Trey Egan’s show at Cris Worley Fine Arts. I am sure Egan would agree with me that creating and containing a great abstract work is incredibly difficult; mentally and physically. My guess is it took its toll on Rothko and Pollock. The tortured artist myth has given their works a kind of je ne se qua. Although I don’t see Egan as tortured, running over with emotion, but rather a stable chancellor of feeling through his work. Music with a beat expressed in paint on canvas seems to be Egan’s aim. I see a rise and fall of painted elements in this body of work. Some very quiet moments occur with minimal amount of paint while others start to build up and almost form structures. Jackson Pollock can be seen as a dancer recording his moves in paint. Egan, however, could be seen as transcribing music into a language of abstract painting. I wrote about his last solo show at Cris Worley Fine Arts that the movement guided you around the canvas. This body of work does much the same, yet I felt these images slowed you down so you can enter the work a little easier.

I hear a lot of rattling of swords by realist painters complaining about absorb level artists and the steps they are taking to deskill themselves, which I admit is a real problem right now. And don’t get me wrong, I love realist work that accomplishes more than just illustration. But really good abstract art takes a great deal of skill and some of the best artists out there are producing thoughtful and emotionally relevant work that happens to be abstract and I think Trey Egan is one of them.

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