Thursday, April 30, 2009


Perhaps at the top of my art wish list right now is Los Angeles-based artist Richard Colman. The artist, working primarily in guache and ink, got his start as a graffiti artist in Washington, DC, where he commuted from his home base in Bethesda, Maryland. As stated by the artist himself, "while stylistically nearly irrelevant in terms of [Colman's] art," there are certainly some cues in his work that point to this early practice. "[Graffiti] is the kind of background that changes one’s perceptions of what is permanent and precious" - graffiti is "cocksure attitude, bristling edges, and menace – strange for a medium so utterly fragile." Certainly, one can see a menacing attitude coupled with human fragility in Colman's work, which often features imagery of sodomy and decapitation, though without any expressed emotion on the faces of his subjects.

Colman's aesthetic and visual lexicon borrows from Byzantine art (a pretty wide net), which is marked by a more abstract and symbolic approach, as opposed to a natural or realistic approach. Similar to Byzantine art, Colman's work utilizes a relatively flat plane, without shading or the use of other depth perception techniques. His subjects are frequently cast with a highly gestural use of their hands, an antiquated technique used to indicate a visual narrative, or flow, to the viewer, while their heads are often haloed in golden spheres, lending his images to the usually religious or royal-themed work from Byzantine artists.

To me, Colman's work seems to straddle the approach of this era as applied to subjects that look rather circus side show-ish, with somewhat disturbing human-animal 'acts' and freakishly tall or fat subjects who seem to be performing for the viewer. In an interview with Trippe from Fecal Face, Colman describes some underlying themes within his work:
"I started to think about some of my own feelings of being detached from my life, physically there but not really present, you know? I have become increasingly busier in the past few years so I've been feeling sort of like I have been disappearing from my own life...The characters...are sort of being swallowed up by the compositions, even becoming the composition. The end result represents the transition or metamorphosis of the character, changing into something completely different from what they physically are."
Since graduation from Boston’s School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Colman's work has been exhibited alongside the likes of Ron English and Shepard Fairey, and remains a respected figure in the DC street art community. To see more of Colman's work, visit his website or check out his current show, C.H.U.D.Z. at the Cinders Gallery in Brooklyn, NY, which runs through May 24th.

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