Of hornets and snowmen
Doug Anderson, whose show at Stux Gallery just ended, has emerged in the last few years as one of Boston's most important young painters. What makes him so special?
As with his colleagues of the baby-boom generation, Anderson's consciousness was formed by an endless array of electronic, print, and cinematic images. Now in their 30s, these artists draw on sources as diverse as art history, primitive cultures, and the comic-book characters of their youth in an attempt to comprehend their own confusing era. Too often this work ends up as a hodgepodge of personal Angst, which clarifies little for viewers except to let us know the artist is upset.
Anderson, on the other hand, plays down his own psychological makeup. Instead , he presents images that appear randomly connected, if at all. ''Perfect Mom No. 1'' features a blank-eyed snowman in a candy cane-decorated baseball cap. He's placed against an ambiguously scaled comic-book urban landscape (gleaned from Nancy and Sluggo) and surrounded by giant hornets (inspired by Anderson's high school symbol - Fayetteville's Manliest Hornets). It's a swarm of images that don't seem to add up to anything in particular. Here as elsewhere, Anderson filters through memory impressions that preclude narrative content. Although there are lots of realistic objects in his work, there's no beginning, middle, or end.
What is there is an astounding conviction that these paintings work in spite of not making sense. By juxtaposing ostensibly un-related iconic cultural images with surety, verve, and confidence, Anderson expresses the paradox that although late 20th-century experience may seem meaningless, the search for meaning refuses to go away. His encapsulation of chaos and confusion - alternately deadpan, sinister, or humorous, but always imbued with vivid imagination - achieves a coherence that ironically negates nihilism. This central contradiction at the core of Anderson's work, plus his sheer, undeniable talent, makes his an art that brilliantly takes the pulse of its time.