The folk and the fine

By GREG COOK  |  June 16, 2008

It’s like the Weather Channel’s greatest hits, with shout-outs to the 19th-century landscape paintings by the Hudson River School (those fellows who thought nothing was more sublime than getting caught in a downpour). All told, there are four great paintings here, several good ones, and a bunch of mediocre pieces. Too often Rockman’s brushwork and compositions feel generic.

But the great ones are pretty great. In Multi-Waterspout (2006), a sunny blue sky is interrupted by a line of blue tornados spearing down from black clouds and exploding upon a blue-gray sea. Rockman deploys oil paint via brushes, sticks, turkey basters, palette knives, and whatever else he can get his hands on. What grabs you is how he did the clouds — the paint was poured in very wet, so it puddled and flowed, swirled and pooled across the heavy watercolor paper, driven by gravity. This natural force manifest in the microcosm of his painting speaks to the grand forces he’s depicting. And the clouds look as if they were haunted by ghosts. As Rockman paints it, dragons are off prowling some distant prairie or far out at sea, for now — but the monsters are coming.

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