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Brenden Clenaghen: About How Things Got So Slippery
At first glance, Brenden Clenaghen's wall constructions remind one of marzipan confections, or minimalist compositions. The reality of his work is a little more complicated.
Mr. Clenaghen's process, more akin to sculptural construction, is intriguing. Made from liquid plastic and acrylic coated with joint compound, Mr. Clenaghen's works shimmer like refined confections. Liquid dyes placed under the acrylic bleed through the surface, coloring the layers on top. With the addition of linseed oil to the process, surface anomalies manifest themselves as cracklature, and sometimes like fine-lined varicose veins. At times beads are formed by the placement of fine dots in the liquid acrylic underpainting and accompanied by larger, pearl-sized dots of PVC Plasticol on top. The patterning of the dots on the surface of the work is not entirely meant to be mechanical patterning but more organic in nature. However, even nature adheres to fractal mathematics, and one can't help finding the organic patterns inherent in the works.
The surface is reminiscent of plucked chicken skin more than human skin with goose-pimples while the coloration is more closely related to colored sugar dots, or cake frostings and icings. Mr. Clenaghen wraps the surface around the edges of the working surface, making a continuous self-contained surface. Often, the surface reminds one of ceramic glazes. They are not sensual, and interestingly, one is not tempted to taste them either: like most beautiful confection decorations, one gets the idea that they probably look better than they taste.
The immediate effect of the installation of Mr. Clenaghen's work is that it must be minimalist. Upon examination, however, the process, the surface, and the coloration mixed with the surface inconsistencies, speak to a larger concept that isn't quite articulated as much as implied. The title of the show, "About How Things Got So Slippery," is a referral to the elusive nature of the concepts involved. The work is not meant to be decisively anything in particular, yet in a Freudian nature, refers to the enticingly sweet confection of the sensual experience. In another twist, those of us with more cynical minds relate this work to pop culture and how it sells itself using these same concepts. Hence, "About How Things Got So Slippery" is a reference to false advertising, or at least advertising to our most base instincts. Here, however, the concept is veiled and the art work, which also happens to be visually interesting and appealing, is the centerpiece, not the concept itself.
Most of the works in the show are no larger than 24" x 36", and a couple of them are as small as 12" x 12". "Fading Casanova" (24"x36":2001), has a very pink, skin-like surface, but really looks more like marzipan. The dot pattern formed by the acrylic underneath the joint-compound is semi-transparent with a slight yellow tinge. The diptych "Stickier Pink" (16"x24":2001), is a smaller variation on "Fading Casanova" with the addition of the pearl-like PVC Plasticol dots on top. An untitled piece that sits near the door of the gallery is the most 'dot candy'-like of the bunch; its pastel, multicolored dots of acrylic and dye showing and bleeding through the joint compound like a strip of dot candy left out in the rain. Similarly, a monotone pink and white "Blush 2" (32"x24":2001), concentrates its color along the edges. "Blue Blush" (32"x24":2001) is an antithesis to the other skin-referenced paintings. Similar to "Blush 2", "Blue Blush" is practically the same except for its unnatural pastel blue color. With "Blue Blush" one can see how the reference to skin is, pun intended, only skin deep.
Each and every one of Mr. Clenaghen's works has its own merits: "Polka-dot Choc-O-Lat" (32"x24":2001) reaffirms commitment to body references through taupe coloration and painted-dot pattern. Here the painted dots are like cosmetic nail-polish, or, coffee and cafe latte. Once again, Mr. Clenaghen references the consumer-culture which often will reference in-vogue food items as a gimmick for sale as well as desire. There's also "Again and Again" (10"x5" diptych:2001) where the left side of the work is like lemon cake frosting and the right side has a more ceramic glaze-like surface. The juxtaposition of the two sides creates an interesting comparison/contrast in color and perception.
The Zolla/Lieberman Gallery gives ample space to Mr. Clenaghen's work in its front gallery, allowing careful consideration of each piece. A worthwhile show, it will be on display through March 16, 2002.
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