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LEE STOETZEL: "CUBIST WESTERN" TRICIA COLLINS * GRAND SALON NEW YORK

lee stoetzel
Lee Stoetzel, Seducing Still


Seven paintings, both oil on canvas and wood, mostly in the paired down pallette of browns and whites, made up Lee Steotzel's second solo show at Tricia Collins * Grand Salon. Entitled "Cubist Western," Stoetzel consistently explores the idea of "still life"--in this case Cubistic--embarking on the language of contemporary space but using methods as old as tromp l'œil, some type of frotage, and even block printing. Using a variety of brush strokes and a minortiy of medium he acheives lucid compositions with the canvas and wood surface itself taking center stage, as in open pattern the largest piece in the exhibition, and seducing still. In the later, the background is swathed in velvet strokes that drape and banter in a horizontal manner near the bottom, and melt into birdlike hatchings above. But this is no regular background, it in fact competes with its long time companion object­even though this object is not so recognizable, and made up of heavier darker brown strokes, and intermingled with wood like pattern appliques (from a decorating crafting tool intended to render wood pattern). This object lures and balances itself somewhere in a tantelizing middle ground--not popping, not pulling. No receeding here. Oddly then line, plays such an ardent role--either through its incision or because it has become a trace, a remnant. So as with the Cubists, the question of space is redefined and within a modern context similarly exploring the place of line foreground/background that are attacked in the work of more contemporary protegees such as Jonathan Lasker and/or David Reed.

Another work, wooden irregularities, acheives this similar effect through quite different means. Here, the background is definately covered with the crafting wood effect. Four "objects" float and hover one as totem, another as spiral, a third as figure, while the last remains almost flora like. But the most interesting aspect of the painting and what seems to be the glue that holds it all altogether are the heavy chocalate milk hatchings or stairs that score the lower half of the composition. These marks divide and conquer the issues of foreground/background--comingling the objects and pushing the crafting background to the front. Weirdly, what comes to mind are the early trompe l'oeil paintings that hang in the American wing at the Met: William Micheal Harnett.

In effect those quirky still lifes have the momentary effect. Stoetzel's works have a spare but complete glimpse of life or some vision privy but open, generous in its own sparity. To requote an allusion for the sake of critcism of two very different artists' work--Jessica Diamond's piece "Yes, Bruce Nauman." With Stoetzel it's a yes of a different sort, but equally relevant: Yes Cubist, Yes Western, Yes Country Music Channel, Yes still life, Yes Aleene's Creative Living. All the paintings twang of some of the most riffed passages of paintings' treatises, and yet they still feel good, wear well, and relate to good old days and ways, while that hint of nostalgia recombines deft mannerisms with a new spirit that is entirely Stoetzel's.

Devon Dikeou

New York, New York

1998


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