Two Painter's Private Revelations
DIANE DARROW and Robert Baart are trying to find something at the bottom of their paintings. They have both chosen to use the language of pure form to get at something that apparently can't be communicated by any other means, either through reference, metaphor, or direct observation of nature. It is the hardest thing to do. It means finding the voice inside, a language invented for the purpose of giving it expression, and the powers to know and believe in the meaning expressed and the reasons for express ing it. It is a load.
That is what these two painters who have been shown together have in common, this conviction to paint, and paint abstractly. After that they go their separate ways, although they may arrive at some of the same places in their work. Perhaps one other similarity, which is interesting, is that they are both balancing. Her paintings appear to be what at one time would have been considered masculine, and his likewise, feminine.
Diane Darrow's paintings are vertical, dark, and somber. They are tough, at least at the outset. She is somewhere at the back of these images. Her presence is not felt up front. It is just something you sense when looking at someone's work. Where is the artist? Is he or she hanging out there, or are they hiding? It is what I noticed immediately about Darrow's work. It's as if she is trying to get our attention from the back of a dark crowded room or from behind a window obscured by reflections. She has b een silenced, but at the same time, she is reaching out.
Robert Baart's images are horizontal, straightforward, and brightly colored. They are cheerful, at least in comparison. His process of mark-making focuses the action right onto the surface, and gives the paintings their frontality. They are much more what-you-see-is-what-you-get, and there is little suggestion that he is hiding anything. As a result we take them at face value, and contemplate their relationships, the way the horizontal plane is broken into vertical columns, and the way the texture of mar ks gives way in the diffusion to a suggestion of a larger space.
If Baart's paintings are landscapes, then Darrow's are interiors. What is intriguing about this is that despite what is happening on the surface in this work, when it comes right down to it we still get the traditional male explosion and female implosion.
While Darrow seems to be bogged down in a self-critical struggle that undercuts every move she makes, Baart is doing some questioning of his own. His self-doubts have to do with just how much of himself he can allow in his paintings. In his last two compositions he introduces a mark or two made with his own finger. They sit up on the surface and thumb a comic nose at it all.
It is just these kinds of private revelations that keep abstract painting alive. They are its value. Its quality. Not looking good, but being what it is. It is a private reality that we can go to in privacy.