PAINT­ING THE INVISIBLE DAVID McGEE

Public News (Houston) - - FRONT PAGE - by Rosanne Friedman

“My paint­ing has a dif­fer­ent kind of re­flec­tive na­ture. They work as so­cial thought. There’s an idea be­hind the idea, there’s al­most a trick­sters na­ture that I’m think­ing about….. there’s a cer­tain kind of chaos: they are meant to make you think. The chaos has a sound, you can’t be set­tled.” David McGee

At the Mu­seum of Fine Art in the ex­hibit, Defin­ing the Body; Con­tem­po­rary Fig­u­ra­tion on Pa­per, is David McGee’s paint­ing called “Ezra Pound” . The paint­ing is of a fig­ure above and the name of the poet be­low. The im­pulse of the fig­ure, one dressed in the garb of hip hop look­ing street smart op­po­site Ezra Pound poet and known Nazi, moves one to a sub­tle kind of un­set­tling cog­ni­tive dis­so­nance. The quote defin­ing the essence of sur­re­al­ism by one con­sid­ered the prophet of the Sur­re­al­ists, Isadore Du­casse, was picked up by An­dre Bre­ton and used as an ex­am­ple of sur­re­al­ist dis­lo­ca­tion: “the chance meet­ing on a dis­sect­ing ta­ble of a sewing ma­chine and an um­brella” the echo of the new when two dis­sim­i­lar ideas are placed to­gether to en­gage lev­els of con­scious and sub­con­scious is the idea of the sur­re­al­ists and McGee puts his work in this flow.

And then there is the next level: the rhythms that hip hop and Ezra Pound share, though the pol­i­tics clash. And the next level: The gaze of the fig­ure look­ing to con­front the viewer as a par­tic­i­pant, a guilty party or some­one who de­serves to be held in ac­count. There is noth­ing soft in that gaze. Does ref­er­ence to the poet re­fine the anger or add to it? The name of the au­thor is an of­fer of an­chor­ing to re­ject at first and then to ac­cept for the un­rav­el­ling of the mys­te­ri­ous in the voy­age of un­der­stand­ing this work. Lay­ers of in­for­ma­tion are given in a glance, and then coun­ter­pointed with more in­for­ma­tion and the lilt of in­nu­endo of at­ti­tude that is al­ways shift­ing to in­clude more

in­for­ma­tion like the melodies and the coun­ter­melodies of mu­sic.

The res­o­nance is for the viewer. The depth was set up by the artist. This paint­ing holds its own in a room full of the heavy hit­ters of con­tem­po­rary art—Phillip Pearl­stein, Eric Fis­chl, Alex Katz.

To be­gin to understand the artist one tries to get to his in­flu­ences and McGee’s in­flu­ences are as large as con­ti­nents as deep as history. As a mu­sic lover he counts as source work in Elvin Jones, Gin­ger Baker, Kenny Clark, Jazz and Hip Hop as well as Clas­si­cal in Beetho­van and Tchaikovsky. As an art lover there is the tribal art of Black Africa in the Do­gon, New Zealand and the Maori and find­ing the flow of Western Art History at his fin­ger­tips he is equally com­fort­able with Michelan­gelo as Duchamp. His in­flu­ences are like a color box, all pos­si­bil­i­ties for ex­pres­sion, no color is left un­touched.

The spare qual­ity in the paint­ing, the white space is cred­ited first to Richard Ave­don, and then the white space of modernism—the space be­tween the notes, or per­haps it is a fo­cus­ing de­vise and fi­nally the white den­sity of “no — thing”, as only God is not a body or a thing there is a spir­i­tual as­cent in it.

The de­ci­sions in making are de­lib­er­ate, dense in many cases pre­ceded by vol­umes of writ­ing, and more re­cently trust­ing his in­tu­ition and set­tling up for cause later. In touch with the or­ganic in life, mus­cle, bone, nerve the anatomy is clear in his fig­ures. As a for­mer base­ball player, he knows the form of the ath­lete and com­mu­ni­cates that form em­pa­thet­i­cally. His fig­ures are sen­sual and spare and recorded in el­e­gant meet­ing of pa­per and paint. All the things of art—lost lines and den­sity to cre­ate beau­ti­fully drawn, well de­signed, fine fig­ures of men. And as soon as one thinks of the nat­u­ral its coun­ter­point -the cul­tural comes to play; Cos­mopoli­tan and full of the So­cial Aware­ness of points of view with pos­si­bil­i­ties of per­cep­tions chang­ing the score.

There is some­thing of the am­biance of the French here, be­sides the men­tion of Sartre and Ca­mus and the prizes given to the artist as the French have re­sponded to him. The French are es­pe­cially aware of beauty, even the ugly or dif­fi­cult is some­how styled and made el­e­gant.

McGee has called him­self an “ex­te­rior painter” rather than an “in­te­rior painter”. There is an au­di­ence in mind, even in the nascent like an em­bryo in­vaded by ul­tra­sound, his paint­ings grow with an aware­ness of their au­di­ence, they grow to the rhythm and ex­pec­ta­tion of that res­o­lu­tion. They have that in com­mon with cin­ema. Stan­ley Lumet pairs down his im­ages for im­pact and power, graphic ap­peal and poignancy as does this artist.

In sheer in­ven­tion McGee’s work pushes

lim­its—all lim­its in em­brac­ing the nar­ra­tive, even push­ing the lim­its of words for the im­pact of im­age. McGee has the insight to put the busi­ness of lit­er­a­ture and street smart to­gether—two kinds of smart not of­ten imag­ined on the same sur­face. For sheer cre­ativ­ity the lim­its be­tween an artist and model are pushed, the in­ner view of the artist is in the gaze of the model. He was one that in watch­ing his mother read learned to love to read. McGee is­sues a clear call to lit­er­acy as he pushes the view­ers of his paint­ings to know more, think more deeply. He learned the con­nec­tion of peo­ple is in the power of a story and the power of the story lies in the power of the im­age, the heav­i­est of mes­sage done with the light­est of hand.

See more of David McGee’s work at the Me­nil Col­lec­tion,1533 Sul Ross Hous­ton, 77006 from Novem­ber 5th.

DAVID MCGEE

TEXAS ART GALLERY

TEXAS ART GALLERY

TEXAS ART GALLERY

TEXAS ART GALLERY

TEXAS ART GALLERY

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