Visions of isolation

By GREG COOK  |  May 2, 2007

He was always fighting with what he called the “unwilling medium” of oil painting. At his best, his awkwardness embodies the emotional discomfort that powers his work. But not infrequently he’s simply ham-handed. His people often look like waxworks. He seems bored by foliage, scrubbing it in like a bad impression of Impressionism. His dramas can seem forced and campy. His technique went totally to shit somewhere around the end of World War II, when he was in his early 60s. The exhibit’s last room has late paintings that feel like “Hopper Paintings,” almost self-parodies.

But when he’s on, he gets us to put ourselves in his dramas, to identify with the isolation of his characters, the existential distance that buzzes between any two persons. It’s a wonderfully dark trap, with the hope for human connection forever frustrated because paintings never change.

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