— By CHRISTOPHER BEDFORD
In Kelly McLane’s latest body of paintings, shown in the exhibition entitled Big Rock Candy Mountain, the steady-and intensely uncanny-presence of regal white horses and faceless, battle-ready troops tempts the viewer to search for a narrativefil rouge through these seemingly connected paintings. No such plot, however, is forthcoming. In the impressive Who Is in Charge of the White Brigade (2006), for example, a flock of armor-clad jockeys race across an indistinct landscape. Because the purpose of their determined progress remains unclear, the narrative effect of the scene is elusive. The sensation of this half-described tale is exacerbated by McLane’s mastery of a haunting non-finito technique-evocative of Rosso Fiorentino’s thin, poignant oil sketches-that exists on the cusp of self-erasure.
McLane’s fertile imagination is matched by her considerable capacity for formal invention. Most striking is her use of delicate graphite lines in oil paintings like God Beams (2006), not as preparatory under- drawing, but rather to make apparent the bristle marks that together compose the lively brush strokes seen in her works. This inventive formal strategy allows McLane to create graphite abstractions within fields of ostensibly representational paint, and to draw out the usually invisible “architecture” of the single brushstroke. Her vision of a tribal future replete with nationless warriors, deserted military camps, and festering carcasses is just vetistic enough to feel foreboding (portentous), and just fantastical enough to compel our imagination, as do the best works of science fiction. It is testament to McLane’s painterly savvy that she is able to render such dire visions in a sumptuous “California palette” reminiscent of Richard Diebenkorn; it is an aspect of her new work that makes it hard to look away.