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Tory Folliard's 'New Still Life'

More than just flowers in a vase

May. 14, 2014
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Still life painting does not always get props for drama. Sometimes it is flattened into a punchline of blandness, a bunch of stuff on a table or endless vases of roses sitting demurely with not a whole lot of life. “The New Still Life” at Tory Folliard Gallery is definitely not a show in this manner.

Lon Michels’ Roses takes the traditional flowers-in-a-vase motif and transforms it into vividly hued compositions of electric lines of pure color, crisp outlines and a love of geometric pattern that pulses through everything he does. The only thing still about his work is the subject.

Beth Lipman’s Pocket Watch, Books, Skull and Candles is a monumental photographic print of her glass work, and an overt vanitas composition with its implications of things temporary and fragile, like life itself. The objects referenced in the title are traditional symbols; time is fleeting, everything is transient and bookish knowledge is an earthy pleasure of this mortal coil. Her glass objects gleam against an endless midnight background. The expanse of darkness creates, intentionally or not, a black mirror in which viewers also see themselves, a strange interaction in an imagined world. 

Artists like Jeffrey Ripple display extraordinary technical chops with oil paintings that breathe with warm sun and luscious fruit that looks like it could happily be plucked right off the canvas’ surface. The legendary John Wilde is represented through paintings that celebrate influences of the Renaissance. His fruits and vegetables were created with a palette of bright but cool colors and formed as precise, sharp objects. Dennis Nechvatal goes for fascinatingly surrealist-flavored work as floral arrangements appear like colorful dreams in a nocturnal forest landscape. His pieces are named with days of the week, but they seem to exist in a space outside of any ordinary calendar.

The strength of this exhibition is in its variety and breadth of technical styles. No, painting is not dead and still life painting is still very much alive.

“The New Still Life” continues through May 24 at Tory Folliard Gallery, 233 N. Milwaukee St.


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