Sunday, February 15, 2009

REVIEW: Galen McDonald "National Reservation."

Galen McDonald,
Muddy Waters, Burlington. "National Reservation" paintings.

by Marc Awodey

Muddy Waters on Main street in Burlington, next to Nectars, has been a major cafe venue for years but its exhibition efforts have had mixed success. It’s recently been curated, however, by the elusive artist known as “Mr. Masterpiece” - Lindsay Vezina - who is one of the area’s best painters in his own right; and the shows have been getting markedly stronger. Labeling, and exhibition durations remain quirky so although the current show Galen McDonald’s "National Reservation" exhibition of new figurative painting is scheduled to be up till 2/23, don’t be surprised if it’s up longer. And that wouldn’t be a bad thing.
  McDonald says his works are informed by global culture. His concerns are mostly manifested through portraiture. The 8 large scale acrylics on unstretched canvas present a range of faces - soldiers, children, men and women - from around the globe. He has a confident, even brash, drawing style influenced by the best of contemporary comic book art more so than Degas, or Michelangelo. That connection to pop culture serves to remind viewers of the globalism of our times and the interconnectedness of the whole human species.
    Paint layers are applied thinly, and as in stain painting, McDonald lets hues soak into his canvasses, and the palette is reduced to essentials - phalo blue, yellow ochre, napthol crimson, and decisive dark lines of varied weights. His crowded compositions also reflect the din of human interactions in disjointed narratives that are more ambient than specific. In one presumably untitled piece, soldiers in khaki, berets, and helmets are interspersed with dogs. The canines seem like pit bulls, and if the painting has a title - albeit unposted- it may well be The Dogs of War. Other McDonald paintings are less easily decipherable, but no less satisfying to investigate.
   And the coffee at Muddies is good too.