20 October – 24 November 2007
at LA Louver Gallery, Venice, CA
by Shana Nys Dambrot
Tony Bevan has been a towering figure in the London art world for decades; an internationally acclaimed painter and draftsman and a member of the Royal Academy, his most recent exhibition of paintings at LA Louver Gallery nevertheless demonstrated a sprightly touch and an elegant reserve that reveal the artist’s passionate engagement with fundamental questions of form. Academic in a literal sense rather than in terms of sensibility, this suite of large scale mixed media (primarily acrylic and charcoal) canvases portrays a series of situation familiar to any first-year drawing student. A tower of boards and chairs, a pile of what could be open boxes or paper bags, a mirroring technique involving folding the canvas and tracing the imprint of the drawn half onto the other – these and similar situations reminiscent of plane exercises and geometrical perspective, perhaps drawing from memory. Further, his palette is limited to a small but warm range of ocher, sepia, blood orange and rust; again a familiar challenge set to students whose draftsmanship is under scrutiny. Yet, and herein lies the quiet greatness of an artist like Bevan, these simple situations, when executed in his practiced, compassionate hand that is intimate with the human figure but ignoring it for the time being, take on the full bloom of life of an opera.
His thickly, confidently laid-in line work has the tensile strength required to hold entire compositions of teetering, interlocking objects in place, while at the same time retaining the organic imperfection of the hand-wrought. With very little information available and that relatively hard to decipher beyond a sense of squarish things the objects shown may or may not turn out to be, Bevan nevertheless infuses his rooms with a languid, compelling psychological atmosphere as well as airy spatial dimensionality. In these compositions it is the artistic choices and his hand that are at issue. With no narrative or symbolic clothing, each and every mark, hue and reversal the artist makes are themselves the naked content of the work, which, of course is the point of using these exercise in the atelier. With no tricks up their sleeve, instructors can evaluate basic, classic skills. Like LeBron James at a corner lot pick-up game of hoops, maybe Tony Bevan was just having a lark. Whatever the case, the results are sensual and smart monuments built to and on the earliest foundation stones of figurative art.
Shana Nys Dambrot
Shana Nys Dambrot is an art critic, curator, and author based in Los Angeles. She is currently LA Editor for Whitehot Magazine, Contributing Editor to Art Ltd., and a contributor to KCET’s Artbound, Flaunt, Huffington Post, The Creators Project, Vs. Magazine, Palm Springs Life, Montage, Desert Magazine, LA Review of Books, and Porter & Sail. She studied Art History at Vassar College, writes loads of essays for art books and exhibition catalogs, curates and/or juries a few exhibitions each year, sometimes exhibits her photography and publishes short fiction, and speaks in public at galleries, schools, and cultural institutions nationally. An account of her activities is sometimes updated at sndx.net.
Photo of Shana Nys Dambrot by Osceola Refetoff
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