Frank Brunner and Michael De Kok; Bertand DeLaCroix; 535 West 25th Street, New York, NY 10001; June 9th, 2011 until July 14th, 2011
You may have missed the Frank Brunner and Michael De Kok exhibition (which ended July 14th) but you don’t have to miss the art. Specifically, I write of painting by Frank Brunner. Born in Norway, Brunner has shown globally and continues to “wow” the spectator. His depictions of static objects come to life with a few simple and precise strokes of his brush.
Arthur Danto pointed out in Unnatural Wonders that although painting has become nearly taboo for the contemporary (after 1970’s) artist, it continues to survive due to a pluristic ideology. However far we displace art from styles that we consider “traditional,” we continue to repurpose traditional techniques as a visual protest, a conceptual contortion of what once has been considered “genius.” Although Brunner doesn’t appear to out-rightly create his paintings as a means to damn masterpieces of the past, he does manipulate oil paint to express his contemporary struggles—in turn portraying ubiquitous struggles that we face daily. As if sucking emotion from the viewer, Brunner’s paintings, simple in subject matter, deeply affect the viewer.
Brunner’s work has been compared to that of Gerhard Richter. When writing on Richter, critics and philosophers firstly point out that the artist paints from photographs. Secondly, past writers question Richter’s reason for choosing particular photographs, mainly of trite subject matter. Danto had purported that Richter’s images were the artist’s reality. The subject of a photograph acted as a means for Richter to experience a certain experience. Richter would take a subject and add his personal touch to it on canvas.
Brunner has used photographs as aids in the past and continues to use similar subject matter to evoke his emotional state. Brunner reintroduces subject matter as an imperative part of painting rather than as a tool to display painterly skill.
Take Pillow, 2010, an oil on mylar painting depicting a inanimate pillow, a bit robust, bursting thick strokes of feathers and conceptual latent sensations. What remains problemtizing to the viewer is the place from where these contents flee. We wish to know how this pillow has been punctured; why the artist has chosen to portray this particular moment; how the pillow physically remains in good condition. We hardly digress to discussions of the quality of Brunner’s work due to the peculiarity of his presentation, which inherently resonates.
Pillow visually speaks to an audience. Are you anger enough to bash a pillow until it bursts? As a child, did you ruin your mother’s favorite settee cushion? Pillow fight? Disconcerting work prod at the viewer until inciting tangential thoughts or past memories.
It appears that we have reached a point in history, in which we can no longer directly view a signifier for the object it signifies. We conceptually analyze art without it being labeled Conceptual (notice the big “C”). Broken Mirrors, 2011, Brunner’s oil on mylar depiction of dilapidated windows lit by candles from below proves our need to assign a “why” to a “what.” His simple title, realistic representation and avoidance of figurative language further perplex the viewer. Even the fact that Brunner paints oil on mylar incites queries. The artist uses not canvas but mylar, polyester, to render disconcerting images.
Brunner’s works play with our social construction of “art.” Forcing us to view an object for what it is, while coercing us to think beyond the object.