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Sunday, September 27, 2015

Scott Brodie Retrospective at Albany Center Gallery

Scott Brodie - Waputki 2, oil on canvas 2015
There's one thing nearly all painters have in common: They love to push paint around. A power-packed retrospective of nearly 40 years of work by Scott Brodie at Albany Center Gallery (on view through Oct. 3) amply illustrates this fact, and equally demonstrates that it is true whether the image is photo-realistic, totally abstract or anything in between.

Scott Brodie, oil on canvas
And, if you think it's not possible for a painter to work in such (apparently) divergent styles while maintaining a singular voice, think again. We all evolve over time, but even in a long-term retrospective an artist should show consistency - if they don't, it's a sign of inadequate commitment to a vision. Yet Brodie's show, despite its diversity, makes clear that his vision has remained quite clear over the long haul and, in my opinion, has grown stronger of late.

The consistency comes in the way Brodie engages with color and (secondarily) form in all his paintings. The earliest example in the show is a somewhat academic but somehow still playful study of cardboard boxes from 1977. In it, one can recognize the handling of paint that remains characteristic in his latest works, such as the lush, juicy Waputki 2 (shown at the top of this post) and numerous other recent near-abstractions in the show.

Scott Brodie, oil on canvas
More closely related to the box painting are a couple of examples from the late '90s that depict colorful books. Here, as with the boxes, it is apparent Brodie is more interested in how the subject looks - or, more important, how it looks when he paints it - than he is in what it means. And, correct me if I'm wrong, but that is the essence of abstraction. Jump ahead, again, to the most recent work in the show, and you see landscapes rendered as pure form and color. No, it goes further - you see richly brushed paint exploring the forms and colors that were once part of a landscape.

Brodie's images of books are joined in the show by a couple of (literally) sweet studies in pink and grey, depicting a scatter of Sweet-n-Low packets. These, from '07, form another across-the-decades link to the boxes, but also fit right in with the new landscapes, which favor similar color schemes. Wait, did I call the new paintings landscapes? Well, there you are, then - I guess they're not really abstract after all.

Scott Brodie, oil on canvas
One finds in these landscapes an affinity with bright, hot light, whether taken from the American Southwest or the Italian peninsula, and their titles evoke their geographical and cultural sources. Elsewhere, the show provides six small acrylic studies on paper as a window onto the artist's process of abstraction. Two of the studies are clearly the basis for two larger finished oils, while the others show how rocks and bushes can become lines and colors before being presented as final, more formal compositions. Notably, this whole group is identified by compass locations, rather than place names, in the titles.

Scott Brodie, oil on canvas
Other work in the show comprises a middle period in which Brodie applied his rendering skill and affinity for dimensionally plastic paint dabs to a range of subjects that he pointedly treats equally. These include shoes, vegetables, bushes, figurines, and a hat - all lovingly portrayed, all blandly unembellished by commentary. Brodie's very dry sense of humor is most apparent in this period, and the paintings are very good - but I like it better when he gets a little more passionate.

This is a rare opportunity to see a beautifully installed collection of a lifetime of work by one of our region's foremost painters. Try to catch it while you can.

Scott Brodie, oil on canvas

1 comment:

Scott said...

David,

Thanks so much for this wonderful review of the show.

Scott