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 Downtown LA. She is the Arts Editor for the LA Weekly, and a contributor to Flaunt, Art and Cake, Artillery, and Palm Springs Life.
She studied Art History at Vassar College, writes essays for books and catalogs, curates and juries a few exhibitions each year, is a dedicated Instagram photographer and author of experimental short fiction, and speaks at galleries, schools, and cultural institutions nationally. She is a member of ArtTable and the LA Press Club, and sits on the Boards of Art Share-LA and the Venice Institute of Contemporary Art, the Advisory Council of Building Bridges Art Exchange, and the Brain Trust of Some Serious Business.
Photo of Shana Nys Dambrot by Osceola Refetoff
Follow Whitehot on Instagram
view all articles from this author