Wednesday, September 22, 2010

"We the darkness with a fire between us" -- Steve Roden

Steve Roden has an uncanny way with making paintings that seem accidental yet inevitable, inscrutable yet utterly coherent. There's a place for everything and everything is happily in its place, fussed over and as carefully assembled as a precise calculation; but the exact principle driving the placement is indecipherable, save for the gauzy concept of intuition.

In the beautiful 20-year survey of his work at Pasadena's Armory Center for the Arts, as well as a smaller but related show of new work at the Pomona College Museum of Art, the 46-year-old painter emerges in a tradition of artists like Arthur Dove, Paul Klee and Alfred Jensen. He's an eccentric virtuoso whose paintings look abstract, but only in the way that a chair, a tree, a face or even a Pop-Tart becomes abstract the longer you look at it -- which is to say real, highly specific and not representative of more than itself. His remarkable pictures coagulate.

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