"Persons Known and Unknown" is an apt title for the current show at Corporate and Museum Frame. The well-known Richmond artist Ed Trask and the relatively unknown painter Jennifer Holloway present varying images of friends and family, both real and imaginative (and including each other), in a manner that initially seems rather cloistered and clannish. This coterie of faces, however, eventually gives way to a more universal world of fantasy, nostalgia and even the paranormal.
Jennifer Holloway paints in an immediately recognizable style. She would be easy to pick out in a group show due to her almost formulaic approach to the human body on canvas. The faces are modeled with light and shade, but the bodies and background are specifically flat basically outlined and then filled in with pools of color and patterns. This compression of space literally pushes the countenance of each sitter into the viewer's face. Holloway, cognizant of this effect, notes, "By mixing finely worked figures against flat fields of color and pattern, the people are thrust to the foreground to be seen in an empathetic light." Empathetic is an interesting word choice because it suggests a sense of pity and understanding of another's feeling and situation. The pity here is closely aligned to the type one has for drivers license photographs. No one has a good picture on their license so we can all commiserate on that matter together. This is rather like what Holloway's portraits do with each other.
Her style is part expressionistic, part realistic and part caricature, distorting and exaggerating one's face with bulging wrinkles, sunken eyes, unblinking stares, anthropomorphic hair, and strange bluish and greenish casts. The effect is like looking in a distorted fun-house mirror. Stretched and manipulated in a clownish manner, the face is matched with brash, acidic background colors and dizzying, nightmarish patterns. The sitters themselves seem aware of their distorted faces and carnival settings because they smirk, grimace and stifle giggles as they gaze upon each other. Her portraits are not particularly flattering, but they are definitely compelling.
While Holloway has locked into a specific composition, Ed Trask's 13 works seem to ramble without direction. Despite a few reoccurring motifs five-pointed stars, references to old-master works, and slashes and dashes of loose paint his style seems rather artistically schizophrenic. The show consists of a few portraits in particular, a pleasing diptych of a young boy wearing a dunce hat juxtaposed with a portrait of the artist's father. But it is as if Trask cannot be confined to one genre such as portraiture, even though that happens to be the theme of this show. Other subjects include large clapboard houses, a tobacco farmer and a three-part painted collage of a Renaissance-looking boy, ants, musical instruments, a cow, and gobs and dashes of line.
It is difficult to look at Trask's works without projecting them onto a large exterior wall since murals have become his artistic claim to fame. Indeed, the relatively small canvases necessary for an indoor exhibition seem to confine the artist. His broad and ragged brushstrokes, looming vast heads and smorgasbord of figures, shapes and symbols attempt to push out beyond their frames. Scale also seems to be a conundrum Trask grapples with not surprising for a painter who is used to blowing up designs to fill in building walls the size of billboards.
Trask's slash-and-burn style contrasts interestingly with Holloway's more polished, formulaic approach. Together, they attest to the seemingly endless possibilities of pigment and binder on flat, unsuspecting
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