Heavy Duty

Abstract expressionists throw their weight around at the Art and Culture Center of Hollywood

I was not surprised to learn, after a bit of digging, that Bailly, who recently had a one-man show at Miami-Dade Community College's Wolfson Gallery, is drawn to such iconic figures as Joan of Arc, the Haitian revolutionary Toussaint L'Ouverture, and South African activist Steven Biko. Bailly translates the struggles of such figures into his stylized, highly expressive imagery, so the outstretched hands and arms become emblematic of millions of people in predicaments of all sorts. He imbues abstract expressionism with a poignant humanism.

The remaining artist in the show, Christopher Mangiarcina, is its weakest link by a slight margin, only because a few of his pieces pale next to the best work of his contemporaries. He has his strengths, though, especially in his handling of thick impasto surfaces. (The exhibition brochure characterizes them as "thick and sensuous as frosting on a cake.")

Mangiarcina's Restoration (2002), for instance, which suggests a towering building, features thick pigment as deftly manipulated as in the work of Frank Auerbach. And Homa'ge (Chasing Three Bathers) (2002), a mixed-media piece using oil, resin, and beeswax on a big slab of torched plastic, gets better the farther you get from it -- not until I looked back on it from the far end of the gallery did I realize its impact.

Rosaria Pugliese channels Rothko in her color-field experiments
Colby Katz
Rosaria Pugliese channels Rothko in her color-field experiments

Details

On display through December 1. Call 954-921-3274.
Art and Culture Center of Hollywood, 1650 Harrison St., Hollywood

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Curator Samantha Salzinger's brochure commentary, which is also posted at the beginning of "Fat Painting," explains abstract expressionism as, in part, a reaction to photography, which more or less co-opted painting's long-standing claim to realism. She also acknowledges the difficulties of abstract expressionism for many viewers: "Abstract painting, stripped bare of narratives, horizon lines, and defined subjects, must build its foundation on problems of the paint and the canvas, the design and the balance. Abstraction must be accepted for what it is; it is a painting, it is about itself."

As a late convert to abstract expressionism, I have to concede that it's largely either/or art. Either you appreciate painting that's about itself, or you prefer painting with more conventional subject matter. If you fall into the former camp, "Fat Painting" is just the show for you.

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