John McNamara, Larkspur, CA

John McNamara: A Survey of Paintings
Gallery Bergelli
February 10 – March 7

John McNamara
John McNamara makes surrealist photo-collages and then slowly covers with them with a layer of oil paint, mixing not only figuration and abstraction, but also raising questions about representation in the way that many photographers of constructed realities are also doing, writes DeWitt Cheng in catalog essay accompanying the exhibition. For John McNamara collage is a time machine of sorts. The painted skin on top jettisons the photo document into the world of painting; but these people, places and things still speak from underneath the painted skin. Photography’s frozen moment is resurrected into a sustained romantic presence.

“A Survey of Paintings” exhibition will consist of fifteen new works investigating notions of transcendence, moments in collective popular culture, and sharable life realities.

“Some of McNamara’s eye-popping obsessive-compulsive covers or coverlets include “Wise Ass”, a panoramic landscape reminiscent of Dali in its succulent palette and unfettered fantasy; “Encroachment”, a merger of two images of high-altitude maintenance workers in New York City and Dallas; “The Suitors”, depicting a Gothic Revival mansion and its upstart neighbor, a postmodernist work in progress “Unreal”, a montage of children, wounded soldiers and movie spectators with the epic quality of nineteen-century history painting, but without its canned sentiments; and “White on Color”, a large painting combining scores of images dealing with various types of “space” that have been edited with white paint and then preserved and muted by an overall glazing of white-tinted wax, resulting in a kind of artifact already dimmed and obscured by time. Social satire, surrealist fantasy and elegy vie with formal concerns in these works, but however ambiguous or enigmatic the narrative implications, the images are always compelling to viewers open to their eccentric seductions. With their surreal juxtapositions and cinematic jump cuts, they are, in the words of Gerrit Henry (Art in America), “ridiculous and sublime, all at once”-like real life.” DeWitt Cheng

John McNamara has exhibited widely and teaches art at UC Berkeley. His work is included in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, the Currier Museum of Art, Danforth Art Museum, DeCordova Museum, Fuller Museum of Art, J.B. Speed Museum of Art, MIT List Visual Art Center, Rose Art Museum, Smith College of Art Museum, Tampa Museum of Art, Tucson Museum of Art, Davis Museum and Cultural Center and the Worcester Art Museum to name but a few. He is the recipient of several awards and fellowships including the National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship; Massachusetts Arts and Humanities Grants (1980, 1983, 1986, 1989); Awards in the Visual Arts Fellowship 2, Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art; and the MacDowell Colony Fellowship.