Magazine article Artforum International

Tom Knechtel: Grant Selwyn Fine Art. (Los Angeles)

Magazine article Artforum International

Tom Knechtel: Grant Selwyn Fine Art. (Los Angeles)

Article excerpt

Tom Knechtel knows how to load up a picture, but he also knows how to pare it down, and in cobbling together the intricate, ornate, and flamboyant, as well as the loose, minimal, and austere, the artist produces what ought to be visual train wrecks but instead are carnivalesque ballets, apparently choreographed on the fly. His latest offering included an elegant collection of reductive drawings punctuated by oil paintings modest in scale but grand and complex in story.

Knechtel samples Italian quattrocento, Renaissance, Mannerist, and Baroque painting; the more fantastic Northern European religious art; Victorian illustration; Indian miniatures; medieval illuminations; Asian landscapes, maps, and calligraphy; Rococo flourishes, naturalist illustration, and animal caricature; Color Field and push-pull formalism, with an occasional sip of Pop. The result reads as a celebration of painting and drawing's traditions, the modes of representation and their varied connotations available for the artist to employ in his densely barnacled, open-ended narratives. Like the pictures themselves, Knechtel's cast is an odd, ragtag bunch who don't seem like they should be as elegant as they are. The characters are generally men or animals or plants--or all of the above. A robust fellow in A Mare's Nest, 2000, becomes queen, clown, and martyr, done up in an elaborate wig/halo and ruffled "collar," a collage of Lilliputian architectural renderings, corporate logos, flora and fauna, and the int ertwined limbs of tiny wrestlers and bodybuilders. The figure's shoulders are equipped with side-view mirrors for hindsight, vanity, or perhaps simply self-reflection, and his formal skirt is peeled open to reveal its hidden support structure as well as his anatomical correctness, while a cup in his hand runs over with an acid-green liquid pouring down on him from a tipped urn in a vignette above. …

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