Clive Barker, "Untitled"
January 12 - February 19, 2011 at Bert Green Fine Arts, Downtown Los Angeles
by Ray Zone
There is a fine if harrowing fit in pairing the paintings of Clive Barker and Sandra Yagi together in one show. Both of these painters, through different approaches, strip the mortal coil of its flesh and tear the physical world asunder.
Sandra Yagi, “Dancing with the Stars #2,” 2010, oil on panel, 7 3/4 x 7 3/4”.
Sandra Yagi’s take is a forensic approach, coolly satirical, yet no less disquieting. Her paintings seem to break down into three separate subgenres. The first group displays skinless simians in a pastoral world, quietly rendered and presented with a blank-faced neutrality poised on a divide between parody and iconoclasm. Her painting titled “Anatomical Chimp #3” is a good example of this group.
The second group of Yagi’s paintings are satirical and more obviously traditional. Skeletons, finely painted, are seen to cavort in a variety of human endeavors. A pair of them are depicted in a terpsichorean gambol with a small oil on panel titled “Dancing with the Stars #2.” With this series we revisit the classic Everyman morality tales and the “Dance of Death” of the Middle Ages. These paintings are an insistent reminder, amidst our joys and frivolities, of our own mortality.
Sandra Yagi, “Dom and Sub on Leash,” 2009, oil on panel, 16 x 12”.
The third group of Yagi’s paintings combine S&M or “fetish” motifs, incorporating spanking and bondage, with skeletons. In this series, as with an oil on panel titled “Dom and Sub on Leash,” skeletons in black leather apply the lash to a submissive male. It’s interesting that, with these pairings, it is always the skeleton that is the dominant party. This is a perverse, and somewhat humorous elaboration of the classic morality tale.
Clive Barker, "Untitled," oil on canvas, 30 x 30”.
Barker’s large oil paintings are afire with his handiwork. Paint comes alive on his canvases in a chromatic clash of blazing primaries. The otherworldly beings he emblazons to life seem to shout with a force of ecstasy or agony. Barker is a novelist as well as a film director and producer of epic fantasy and horror stories. He has repeatedly stated that his paintings are integral to his literary and motion picture endeavors. It’s easy to see why. The paintings in the current show were created over the last decade and could have come from a casting call in another world. Or an audition in hell.
Take a smaller untitled canvas, 30” x 30,” for example. It depicts a black man screaming, crying or singing. He stands out against a background of soft pastels. His open mouth is a scarlet pit in his black head and body. His body gleams with sweaty highlights. The histrionics of the pose contrast to the measured paint handling.
The five by four foot painting titled “Magma,” this time with freely applied paint depicts a skeletal jester or alien calmly squatting on a flowing bed of hot lava. The being regards us with great equanimity, so as to imply a normal state of affairs despite being perched amidst an inferno of windblown flame.
Ichabod Crane seems to live in a black and white painting of a gaunt figure holding a cane as he is surrounded by whirling blackbirds, as if they are a part of him. God only knows how many of these supernal characters live in Barker’s mind. These demigods exit that teeming world and enter ours because Barker’s forceful paint brush provides them with life on canvas.
Clive Barker, "Untitled," oil on canvas, 60 x 48”.