John Shahoney at Test Pattern

The Arts — By on May 12, 2006 at 10:21 am

Ed Ruscha has said that good art should elicit “Huh? Wow!” as opposed to “Wow! Huh?” Such is the case with Shahoney’s eye-catching work at Test Pattern. Taking a deep breath of Shahoney’s paintings is reminiscent of a listening to a bugle blaring loudly within the vacuum of space. This viewpoint requires a deeper look. Two large paintings showcase an obsession with the subtle use of recycled color. While one features graphic shifts that blaze holes into a sheet of mottled ochres (“Capitol”), the other shifts lazily into varied tints and tones of lighter value (“Epic”). The colors are stretched out to their chromatic zenith and are then swallowed whole by their own devices balancing out into warm and cool tones.

All of this generally happens in small pockets throughout the larger works and also in the grander scheme of the whole painting. Clusters of strategic marks are controlled by a subtle underlying structure reminiscent of a walk through a minimalist painting. Select devices like tape and gradations of local color guide the paint and lay the groundwork for the atmosphere that brings the scenes to life.

The smaller works aren’t nearly as intimate as the larger works and reveal more of the design that drives Shahoney’s work. Here the landscape and a sense of place contrast with the other-wordly, organic feel of his larger works emphasized by mercurial splashes of color interacting with graded backgrounds. The acrylic and latex paint stretch the picture plane then flatten it, creating spaces that are reminiscent of images that have been run through Photoshop.

Such is the paradox that exists in Shahoney’s exhibited work. They’re ephemeral and visually hard to pin down resulting in a “Huh?” followed by “Wow”!

Test Pattern is located at 334 Adams Ave.

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