Spindles crank the idea "Home"



<em><strong>"No U-Turn" by Bruce Holwerda</strong></em>

No U-Turn is the current exhibition at the Jackson Junge Gallery displaying paintings by Bruce Holwerda. In conjunction with this exhibition is a permanent display of work by Laura Lee Junge.

Holwerda's work is portraiture with a magical twist. Mechanical worlds expand out of the heads with little people running the mechanisms as if you where watching the circus in people's brains.  Holwerda discusses the concept of "the little people driving the idea home". This idea of little human beings mapping our sensory brain goes back to the ideas of Aristotle. Aristotle explored the concept of homunculi, little people being the biological start of the human race. Dante also represented the homunculi as the seven deadly sins. The homunculi in Holwerda's work crank the spindles connected to the brain connecting thoughts and ideas, working the controls to the human being who looks directly at you. But one also wonders if the human being is trying to observe and predict the homunculi next move.


"Synchronicity" by Bruce Holwerda

The push and pull between pleasure and pain, the devious and kindness is an undercurrent in Holwerda's work this also resonates in the titles, for example "Too Much Information" or "Look Away". In his early paper drawings he depicts human characters sitting in armchairs wearing anthropomorphic masks, or a series of businessmen sitting on the curb amongst whom is a clown. These pieces remind me of a scene from David Lynch's most recent film Inland Empire 2006 where an esoteric discussion goes on between two human Rabbits sitting in a ordinary lounge. Lynch must have been inspired by Holwerda's work dating back to the 1990s. In discussion with the artist he agreed that he empathizes with the clown persona. Clowns have symbolically been used by culture to mirror behaviour back to society, for instance in Comedia dell'arte and Native American Indian Society. In order to mirror one has to become an observer and therefore becomes detached, feeling a sense of alienation from the society.

Holwerda represents this sense of alienation in the imagery but he also employs it in the painting technique. He'll construct realistic portrait paintings that are then deconstructed by masking off parts of the face, creating air passages or by employing pattern mark making onto the face. It all works to create these exquisite dynamic paintings. His painterly marks are multiple and fluid, employing square brush technique to build up the faces in a loose patchwork or utilizing multiple colours on the brush dragging the paint in a linear fashion to build up the form. The marks reiterate the concept behind each work for instance "Too Much Information" is painted with a loose brushwork compared to "The Elusive Ruby-Throated Hummingbird" which is very tight.

Holwerda has the ability to drag the paint like Francis Bacon creating a sense of movement yet building a cohesive dynamic between the layers of paint. He'll give a splatter or add his signature pattern mark making on the last layer adding to the mastery of the work. I would argue that these devices, the splatter and the pattern marks are visual alienation devices forcing the viewer to question the concept of the portrait as opposed to empathizing with the individual. Holwerda takes you on a journey of the mind questioning thought processes, society and the roles we play in it, our relationships with others and the multiple layers of life that an individual lives.

In Junge's work the sense of the circus is a recurrent aesthetic in the show without being literal. In "Mr. Entertainment" one imagines he is Toulouse Lautrec at Moulin Rouge and one can hear the sound of the music and the laughter. The celebration is heightened by Junge's use of colour, fusing and blending tones as if one is peering into this world through a rainbow telescope. An abstract background is created first using a circular motion to break up the canvas onto which these ethereal worlds are built.

Compositionally "Mr. Entertainment" is the most successful of Junge's work in this collection. The balance of scale between the Latrec figure peering down into the world of music and entertainment creates a powerful visual dynamic. In "Out of the Sounds of Silence He Summons the Symphony" - a wonderful title but the scale of the composer looses the power to summon the symphony by balancing on tip toes, he almost topples into the abyss of orchestra stands below. But this does not negate from the quality of the painting. Junge creates these large monumental works with an unseen intensity of detail utilizing a gradational palette for each figurine. The breakdown of planes is reminiscent of cubism but her work is more comparable to the painting of Chagal who had the ability to capture the vitality of life.

If you are feeling starved of seeing wonderful painting this exhibition is a must and I promise will satisfy your cravings. Jackson Junge Gallery is part of the new wave of commercial art galleries to make Wicker Park home.

No U-Turn is open until Aug.15 at Jackson Junge Gallery,1389 N. Milwaukee. Hours: Tues. - Fri., 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Sat., 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; and Sun., Noon - 7 p.m. They may be reached by phone at 773.227.7900.



Anthropomophic means to make

Anthropomophic means to make something human-like. I have seen this exhibition, and the heads of the humans in these "early paper drawings" (illustrations) you mention cannot be "anthropomorphic masks" because 1. They are not human heads, they are animal heads and 2. They are not masks. It would be fair to say the animals themselves are anthropomophized, which is actually what is depicted and what you may have meant to say.

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