Kelly McLane at Angles Gallery
— By Collette Chattopadhyay
Kelly McLane at Angles Gallery
Kelly McLane’s paintings whisper of the daydreams, material obsessions and transgressive violence inherent to contemporary society. Tacitly acknowledging their moorings in the post-industrial world, her images, like the television news, present detailed vignettes of people and places that are rarely granted a holistic interpretation. While at first it seems that McLane’s pictures bear witness to the collision of nature and technology, it maybe that they simply concede their unholy marriage. Shrouding detailed, hard-edged imagery in allusions of fog, mist, clouds and intense light, McLane creates works that are simultaneously defined yet defuse, tangible yet ethereal. More generally, her works critique perception and knowledge, evoking on one hand what is seen and known while alluding on the other to the often undiscovered terrains that surround the comprehended and acknowledged world. Spinning such inquiries further, McLane overlaps and mingles allusions to reality, imagination and memory, blurring any facile distinctions between them. While her paintings configure images that appear real, they simultaneously underscore the fabrication inherent to art.
The paintings profiled in her current and first solo exhibit at Angles contain multiple allusions to the vast repertoire of historical landscape
paintings, spanning from nineteenth century American works to those of sixteenth century Japan. Into an airy and ethereal Bierstadt-esque wilderness painting, for example, she interjects a minimalistically configured tarmac, wryly abutting American artistic impulses of the 1870s with those of the 1960s. Playing off Bierstadt’s elegant and grandiose interpretations of nature, she parodies and extends his perilous innuendoes by dangerously inventing a take-off and landing strip set amidst withering snow-capped peaks. Pressing further, she brackets and counterbalances the mountainous tarmac scene with a foreground space that profiles two large geese in an azure blue sky. The configured geese mimic in turn a celebrated John James Audubon painting. While appropriating the naturalism of Audubon, McLane underscores the artifice inherent to his practice that made dead birds seem alive through art. Drawing one of her geese as though it has just been pierced through with an arrow, she permits the other to remain illusionistically alive, juxtaposing the edge between allusion and reality.
The same theme reappears in McLane’s monumental triptych that nods to the famous screen painting Pine Wood created by the sixteenth century Japanese artist Hasegawa Tohaku. While both Tohaku’s and McLane’s images conjure pines glimpsed in a landscape of mist and fog, McLane’s triptych interjects on the right-hand panel the sight of an abandoned airplane crash. Compromising the tranquillity implicit to the lyricism of traditional landscape painting, McLane recalibrates the artistic interpretation of nature to incorporate sights that resound with contemporary dissonance.
The collision of illusion and reality is manifest on another level as well. Like emerging artists such as Tuba Khedoori, Enrique Celaya and Mitsurnori Kurashige, McLane knowingly juxtaposes the hint physicality of actual space and paint with delicate and dexterous renditions of things seen and imagined. Simultaneously constructing and obliterating allusions to people, things and places, she creates a blinding white and acidic chartreuse green light that simultaneously hides and reveals its subjects. Manifesting historical consciousness while granting the postmodern world its obsession with physical reality, she tenders paint as paint, dissolving evoked figures and landscapes as though they were mirages imagined or glimpsed in a deserted landscape.
Kelly McLane: The Gravity of Nature closes May 4 at Angles Gallery. 2230 Main St., Santa Monica,
Collette Chattopadhyay is a contributing editor to Artweek.