Father-Built Daughter

Marci Gehring

Canada, b. 1963

Gehring's style builds upon and employs elements of various 20th-century movements: Cubism, German Expressionism, pittura metafisica, Surrealism, Abstract Expressionism. Gehring's work is essentially figurative, but with an imagery that is both simplified and often distorted, as may be imagined of a style with such art-historical antecedents. This artist's ability to manipulate, skew, and reconcile different angles, planes, and depths of space within a single painting is one of her work's most arresting qualities. It shows a full command of, and ability to exploit, 20th-century art's analytic dismantlement of ordinary three- dimensionality, while still restoring the illusion of spatial depth which late- dismantlement, deconstructive Post-Modern painting deliberately dispensed with.

The human figures of this painting's symbolic psychodrama are a visual amalgam forged from animated cartoons, comical Surrealist distortion of the human form reminiscent of Max Ernst (German, 1891-1976), and the common science-fiction image of space aliens. The five-fingered flatness of some figures' hands reminds one of Matisse cut-outs. In general the narrative figuration or objective imagery in Gehring's work is set against a background of skewed and juxtaposed or overlapping, different-colored geometric planes whose hard edges recall recent Minimalism. Yet these planes are filled-in, and shaded to suggest non-perspectival depth, with paint applied thinly through flat, abstract brushwork that recalls Mark Rothko (U.S.A., 1903-70) or a more generic Abstract Expressionism.

The complexity of line which weaves through Gehring's compositions, despite their mostly unmodelled figuration, provides a powerful tension of conflicting forms so extensive as to belie their deceptively simple drawing, and gives the paintings a disorienting, counter-balanced three-dimensionality conceived with shifting, variable, or multiple physical points of view. This linear complexity, in combination with the paradoxical spatial conflicts introduced by the abstract backgrounds of skewed and shaded geometric planes, gives her paintings a compositional intricacy characteristic of much earlier ages in art.

Gehring's bright illogical palette of reds, blues, yellows, and greens is distinctively 20th-century, as is the psychological angst of her deformational pictorial dramas, which nevertheless possess a comic aspect. Out of these elements and the others mentioned, Marci Gehring has created a highly arresting and unprecedented individual style, thus fulfilling important objectives of art after Post-Modernism in exemplary fashion. Along with her recovery and exploitation of a variety of technical resources, the wide cultural range of the artist's attention deciphered in this brief analysis rises to the worldwide challenge of this new, revolutionary art movement.

Father-Built Daughter
Oil on canvas
42"w x 48"h
Marci Gehring
Flipped Out
Oil on Masonite
49.75"w x 49.625"h
Marci Gehring
Hands of Time
Oil on Masonite
63.875"w x 51.875"h
Marci Gehring

April 8, 1997
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