Barnaby Furnas. (Reviews)

By Kantor, Jordan | Artforum International, September 2002 | Go to article overview

Barnaby Furnas. (Reviews)


Kantor, Jordan, Artforum International


MARIANNE BOESKY GALLERY

For his recent solo debut, Brooklyn-based painter Barnaby Furnas tackled life's grand themes head-on. Love, death, and war are the subjects of the nine large canvases here, all of which brim with narrative and pictorial action. Yet the real drama lies not so much in the kissing, shooting, and running figures that populate Furnas's pictures as in the artist's knowing investigation of painterly form. Revisiting the dichotomies at the heart of modernist painting, Furnas manipulates the boundaries between figure and ground, form and formlessness, and figuration and abstraction, working in an idiosyncratic style that falls somewhere between Carroll Dunham's and Kai Althoff's. Exploring the fundamental issues of painting in scenes illustrating basic human topics, Furnas has crafted a neat coincidence of form and content that makes for exciting if not quite radical art.

Suicide III, 2002, one of the most successful pieces in the show, demonstrates the way in which Furnas casts heated narrative passages as occasions for painterly drama. A standing male figure, gun in hand, is shown at the moment his head explodes in a hail of bullets that seem to come from all directions. This instant of fracture and death (depicted on the beach, that archetypal border between known and unknown) is shown as a formless shower of red paint, spraying and pooling across the center of the canvas. Embodying rather than illustrating the man's blood, this red paint is at once mimetic and concrete and exemplifies the play of figuration and abstraction typical of Furnas's project. Here, as in the marbleized grays that represent the surf behind the figure, Furnas uses paint to describe form while allowing it to twist, run, and puddle into abstraction.

The two large works that dominated the main room testify to both the strength of Furnas's pictorial idiom and his enthusiasm for the materiality of his medium. …

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