Solo Searching at William Busta Gallery and Gallery 160
After my wanderings on a very busy Friday night, February 6, I can’t help but juxtapose the sweet and observant figure paintings of Darius Steward, which continue on view at William Busta Gallery this month, with the humorous and insightful ones of Dan Miller, on view at Gallery 160 in a show he’s calling “Imaginative Isolation.”
Both are small works on white paper, presented unframed. Both have lots of white space surrounding figures alone on the blank field, and both are to some degree about solitude, and what that means –how we view ourselves, alone, how it feels to be alone, what it reveals to concentrate on an individual human being.
With an opening like that, though, you can hear the word “but” coming from a mile away. Or perhaps “whereas,” or even “however.”
Steward’s clean and simple paintings capture vernacular behavior, posture, and reveal unabashed appreciation of regular people. There are lots of kids in these, and especially lots of kids laying face down on playground swings, perhaps contemplating ants on the pavement below, almost certainly day dreaming. Technically these are a lot about composition and the power of white space, and the skilled handling of paint, but their more important cargo is the
Humanity both of the subject and the artist’s treatment of them. They show affection, respect, love of people, of all kinds of people, without irony.
You could say most of the same things about Miller’s figures, but you wouldn’t use the word Sweet. Instead you might say they offer a slightly sardonic look at introspection, and self-perception, and the relationship between the self and the “other.”
Each is accompanied by a statement or phrase that shows a humorous and finely tuned sense of the way people talk—the rhythms, the little dramas that unfold as we explain ourselves. Indeed, these all imply dark stories of the interior life — more loneliness than solitude, more angst than contentment. Each figure—and most are single figures– is accompanied by a phrase written in a jagged, blotchy hand reminiscent of Ralph Steadman’s illustrated chapter titles for Hunter S. Thompson. “And this . . .This is my heart breaking,” one says. The associated female figure in a hospital gown is pulling around one of those little hospital dollies that is used to suspend bags of blood or saline solution, but instead of some sustaining fluid, this one has suspended a red blotch of a damaged heart. Another simply refers to “All those goddam cookies.”
Despite all their similarities, these shows are as different as individual humans. But they are both terrific, and in case you missed them last night, still on the walls.
William Busta Gallery
2731 Prospect Avenue
Cleveland, Ohio 44115
Cleveland, OH 44110