Personal iconography is reconfigured in Ford Crull’s dancing mindscapes

 A recent painting by the New York based artist Ford Crull



“Into the Corporeal”

The Carter Burden Foundation

April 30 to May 21, 2015

“Marks are the constituent feature — the backbone — of painting.”

Kelly Baum


There’s no denying the allure of the paintings in Ford Crull’s recent show at the Carter Burden Foundation. Letters, numerals and iconic elements jostle and rise in brushy patches of vibrant hues. His abstract works pose contradictory interfaces: deterministic vs. random; personal vs. universal; edgy vs. refined. Marks, symbols, and colors all complement each other even as they compete.

As the title of his new show suggests, Crull maintains a visceral relationship with his paintings — the efforts of a human hand are manifest. The physicality of the act of painting is ever present. His marks are irregular and uneven, sassy or tentative by turns.

In addition to brushwork, he stencils, stamps (using inked found objects) and gouges. Layers of varying penetrability contain motifs in arrangements that invite interpretation, analysis and wonder. His integration of personal signifiers shares an affinity with the work of Paul Klee and Cy Twombly.

Repetitive and incremental, the compositions suggest a mimetic recreation of the thought process. Crull’s special relationship with signifiers such as letters, numerals and emblems, animates the bits of meaning. That’s because he’s affected by Synesthesia, a neurological phenomena wherein different senses become united.

As a child, Crull perceived letters and numbers to be imbued with colors, genders, ages and even attitude. Some are wise, powerful and joyful but some are not so good. For instance, he notes: “5 is very positive and joyful. It is red. It represents enthusiasm.”  

In “The Red Queen” a flurry of vermillion brushstrokes floats over images of crosses, letters and shields, evoking the heraldry of the middle ages. The blood-colored atmosphere has a funeral aspect, but it also pulses with life. The charged emblems vitalize the painterly space. Scribbles and drips add to a sense of riotous profusion.

In “Things to Come,” Crull trades the red pall for an amorphous, blue-white veil. Cruciforms loom up, both in positive and negative form. Also breaking through the unifying overlayer, the letter X recedes into a timeless mist. A face emerges. Eyes peer out. Hierarchies dissolve as we see hieroglyphs, arrows, and other signs perpetually rise up and fade back down.

Identifying with Neosymbolism, Crull engages arcane symbols that suggest alchemy or mysticism to evoke the collective unconscious as suggested by Carl Jung. His methodology of suspending individualized icons within an activated field of color, initiates dialogues that address feelings and meanings. Crull is an artist who uniquely expresses the inner self in the outer world.

Whether we are looking into a hologram of the thought process or poring over a map of the soul — Crull’s bravura compositions are as suggestive as they are successful. WM



Jeffrey Cyphers Wright


Wright is best known as a poet. His 12th book, Triple Crown, is out from Spuyten Duyvil. He studied with Allen Ginsberg at Brooklyn College and with Ted Berrigan and Alice Notley at St. Mark's Chirch in-the-Bowery. He's performed in two Museum of Modern Art's poetry series, hosted poetry events at the Bowery Poetry Club, La Mama, KGB and many other village venues. Critical writing has appeared in Artnews, Chelsea Now, Art and Antiques. He reviews regularly for ArtNexus and The Brooklyn Rail. A long -time publisher, Wright currently produces an art and poetry showcase called Live Mag!. He lives and works in the East Village.

view all articles from this author