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 March 2010
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Paul Reynolds . . . from page 1

Each painting is a journal, beginning as a blank surface within which to create a dialogue. Reynolds absorbs cues (be they visual, or not) from a variety of sources: images from the road, from walls; graffiti; random patterns. Pattern, shape, imagery, and content are processed and incorporated into his works in layers of meaning. Reynolds’ artist statement codifies this investigation: “My paintings are getting messier. The recent pieces lean toward the world of marks and lines more than that of shapes. Recognizable objects show up as they would on a wall exposed to random scribblers. I take my cue from casual graffiti, wall histories, tar repairs, paint-outs, old manuscripts, bird tracks, and maps.”

With the first layer of paint, Reynolds begins a dialogue with himself and the work, drawing upon past occurrences and current events to shape each individual painting. This personal dialogue is layered with paint, with words covered and meaning obscured. It is a fascinating notion, tracing the life of a painting that travels from the artist’s deeply personal intent, to the anonymity of a work ending up in someone else’s home, who may not know of the secrets buried in the paint. “There are stories and secrets embedded in these paintings. I carry on conversations with myself and make notes to others, scratch the words into the paint, and then half bury them as the layers build, making a history of shifting thoughts and perspectives. I like the tension between the exposed and the masked.”

When Reynolds begins a work, there is no pre-conceived notion of what it will become. It’s about intuition at lightning speed, “with the same theory that the most important decisions in your life should be given the least amount of thought.” Marks are intuitively made, then Reynolds responds to those marks, adding layer upon layer of paint, painting out imagery that doesn’t work in the overall intent of the piece. Ideas come from marks that are already laid on the panel, wherein positive and negative space dance together to bring about form.

With several of these new works, Reynolds moves away from nonrepresentational shapes by introducing realism in small doses. "Birthday" includes a stencil of his daughter, her left hand covering her mouth.|1| In her right hand -- painted as an extension of the stencil -- she holds a dead mouse. Reynolds painted in her arm to complete the representational aspect of the work. Is she laughing, or holding her nose? It’s impossible to tell, but to ask the question is to find the humor that flits across the surface of Reynolds work. This is one of the works surrounded by a window pane; its representational aspect setting it apart from the other white window frame paintings.

At least half the works in the show are nonrepresentational. "Underground," another white window frame painting, has three mustard-colored blocks of layered paint in an otherwise winter-white field of muted hues. Letters have been painted on the panel, then painted-out.|2| The left side of the painting has marks etched onto the panel itself, appearing at first to be a discernable language. The new language Reynolds creates is known only to him; finding its origins in writings left by a great uncle in his schoolbooks from the turn of the twentieth century.

The cool, winter landscape mood of the white window frame paintings give way to other works in the exhibition. "How Tall?" is a charged work springing up from a vibrant field of ochre and olive green.|3| The background pulsates as pyramid shapes reminiscent of jagged western mountains provide resting points on the painting. In the lower right corner is the ghostly imprint resembling a person, moving us off the panel to a land not yet imagined. On the left of the panel a measuring device runs vertically, demarcating unidentified units in regular intervals.

Autobiography continues in two works: "Ralph" |4| and "Millie and Jack." Ralph was Reynolds’ father, an advertising artist whose circle of friends included Ed Maryon, Steve Macdonald, and dozens of other Utah artists and designers. It is the largest painting in the show, and a departure from other works in the exhibition. It is a complex dialogue with a father fondly remembered, a purely autobiographical work that provides more representational imagery overlaid upon secretive marks. Ralph’s portrait looks straight at us from the lower center section of the painting. Above him are images reminiscent of the father-son relationship: a magpie’s nest, significant to the pair; a bicycle; Ralph reaching up to knock snow from the trees.

"Millie and Jack" is another familial portrait, as interpreted through the vision of another artist.|5| Millie was Reynolds’ grandmother. Jack was Jack Sears, legendary artist whose illustrations could be found not only in The Salt Lake Tribune and Deseret News, but in newspapers and magazines nationwide. Sears was a long-time art professor at the University of Utah, whose illustrious career included lessons from the American artist Robert Henri in New York City and Utah’s J. T. Harwood. Sears’ drawing of Reynolds’ grandmother is a small work in pencil: it is a drawing of the back of Millie’s head. Reynolds redrew and restyled the drawing at a larger scale, cut a stencil from this drawing, and then applied it to the wood panel in his painting three times, with each stencil image appearing fainter than the last. Reynolds avoids turning all three images into a serial portrait a la Andy Warhol. Rather, this portrait is mysterious and tender: each fading image of Millie belies a relationship between painter and subject we won’t know.

Technique is paramount in a discussion of Reynolds’ work. Just as one becomes caught up in ideas of content and meaning, relationships and secrets, the surface of each painting calls for attention on its own terms. One segment of "Millie and Jack" is raw and disruptive, with green paint laid down in a segment of unease. Reynolds’ constant investigation in finding new ways to apply paint to surface has led to the use of a chopstick in certain instances, stating: “It’s so hard to paint with a chopstick…it results in an awkward, tortured line on the panel.” Reynolds embraces the uneven coverage created by using this unorthodox tool, as he shies away from the “slickness” inherent in certain Abstract Expressionist paintings. “I want the paintings to feel hand-wrought, so I choose a deliberate, busy awkwardness over a cleaner abstraction. I try to approach the work with a willingness to leave ends untied, to leave it in a just-about-to-crash state.”

There is a certain affinity between Reynolds' work and the earlier ABEX artists, yet, while he may create out of the ABEX school, Reynolds is not interested in slashes of paint that are expressive in nature and intent. Rather, he seeks out marks that are his own. While discussing his work, Reynolds talks about artists he admires, none more so than Cy Twombly. This comes as no surprise: Twombly’s lyrical lines and markings moved us outside ABEX forms of expression to embody a new visual language. In Reynolds’ words, “he’s an honest painter.”

In the midst of works that embrace moments of representation, or those that are wholly non-representational paintings, is "Rainstorm."|0| This large, horizontal work is the only one in the exhibition with a complete word written out for us….rainstorm. The boldness of the word emerging from the left side of the panel has, by the time it ends on the right, shrunk to a mere whisper of a word. The boldness of the word from the left side of the panel has shrunk by the time we see the right side of the panel to a mere whisper of a word. The huge cataclysm that so often begins a rainstorm and so often ends as a small shower is perfectly embodied in this work. Then, there is the hand. What’s a purple hand doing, floating in the letter “A”? A large red stain falls from the hand, leaving the panel with the appearance of more than just a mere rainstorm: the red stain alludes to apocalypse. Or, maybe the red stain is another secret – a private joke – joined to the numbered measuring device on the left side of the panel. How can we measure natural occurrences? The hand and accompanying stain, with a nod to humor, let us know that we can’t.

This is an exhibition worth taking your time over. Abstract and nonrepresentational works often seem inaccessible to those who favor depictions of the natural world in their paintings. Yet, with so many visual cues appearing in Reynolds’ work – be it the written word writ large on a panel, stencils of family members, or numbers and line as measurement – the exhibition as a whole is a rich autobiography of an artist whose marks and layers bury his secrets to the delight of the viewer.

Exhibition Spotlight: Salt Lake City
Seduced by Wood
Abstract sculptor Rod Heiss at Finch Lane Gallery

A native Californian, sculptor Rod Heiss came to Utah fourteen years ago to apply his skills as a craftsman during the state's building boom. When the housing market collapsed three years ago, Heiss encountered a moment of crisis. He made the most of the opportunity and threw himself back into his love of sculpture. He still makes hand-crafted and individually designed furniture and cabinetry, but the majority of his time is spent creating architecturally inspired fine art sculpture. The past three years, he says, have been the most creative period of his life. A score of his abstract, linear sculptures, executed in glass and exotic wood, are on exhibit at Salt Lake's Finch Lane Gallery through April 9.

Public Issues
Artists for Corroon
Local artists get involved in the gubernatorial race

Salt Lake County Mayor Peter Corroon has yet to officially launch his campaign for governor (that happens on March 17), but already grassroots "affinity" groups are coming together to help him in his Gubernatorial run. A group of local artists, art professionals, and art enthusiasts has formed Artists for Corroon, in order to "generate interest in and motivate Utah’s artistic community to get involved, get the vote out, and help Salt Lake County Mayor Peter Corroon win the Governor’s office in November 2010."

John Sproul and Davina Pallone co-chair the group’s board, which is focused on educating the public and the artistic community about the advantage of having a governor who openly supports the arts. Pallone, who is a visual artist herself and co-owner of Kayo Gallery, believes that Corroon would benefit individual artists, as well as artist cooperatives, galleries and arts organizations throughout the state. Sproul, a professional artist and founder of The Foster Art Program, indicated that his support of Corroon was partly inspired by his campaign for Salt Lake County Mayor, in which he felt that Corroon “exhibited an ethics that I found refreshing. That did not change when he became mayor and I was impressed with, among other things, how he handled the budget problems that existed when he took office. His support for the arts was an added bonus and when I was asked to be a part of Artists for Corroon Group I jumped at the chance to help bring about a long needed change in attitude towards the arts and politics that I believe Corroon represents."

As a longtime supporter of the arts through his service as Salt Lake County Mayor, Corroon is seen by many in the artistic community as the ideal candidate for Governor. He has advocated for funding of the Salt Lake County’s public art program and the county’s Zoo, Arts and Parks tax. He has also actively supported the Salt Lake County Center for the Arts facilities, including the Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center, Abravanel Hall and the Salt Lake Arts Center.

Those involved in Artists for Corroon include a wide variety of backgrounds and artistic disciplines – visual artists, musicians, performers, dancers, videographers, poets, writers, and many more. The group welcomes input from anyone who is an artist or interested in the arts and public policy. Chairs in counties across the state will be working to organize events in their communities.

Local collector and Salt Lake Art Center board member Josh Kanter sums up Artists for Corroon as providing “an avenue for those with common interests in the arts and in support of Peter Corroon’s campaign... to learn more about Corroon, his campaign and his ideas for the state.” Members will be given opportunities to gather and discuss concerns and interests related to the campaign.

Upcoming activities hosted by Artists for Corroon include a meet and greet with Mayor Corroon in April. Corroon’s campaign headquarters will be featuring artwork from the Foster Art Program, and open during select gallery strolls. Artists for Corroon will be looking for artists to design campaign t-shirts, posters and stickers -- a call for entries was recently posted on their Facebook page. Other events are in the works, including performances by local musicians, and the group is eager for artists to bring their creative ideas to the table.

Artists for Corroon believes that, as Governor, Mayor Corroon will be an advocate for the arts in Utah, positively influencing the quality of life for all Utahns. Composer and arts administrator Crystal Young-Otterstrom has been an energetic supporter of Utah's art community and active in local and state politics. She says, "Mayor Corroon is one of those rare politicians who is genuine, cares about the issues, and cares about people. He is a progressive politician who is always looking for the best practices in good governance, who listens to all sides and, most importantly to me, he cares about art.”

Artists for Corroon co-chair John Sproul hangs art in the Corroon for Governor campaign headquarters
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