Darker Lundin is always better than lightfilled Lundin and this recent grouping attested to the richer reservoir of subjects and mood in the veteran realist painter’s current work. “Spaces: Inside and Outside” repeated some of Norman Lundin’s familiar tropes-windows, ladders, puddles, and shadows-while embellishing and burnishing their place in his ongoing oeuvre, one that dates back to his 1969 Whitney Museum of American Art debut in “Human Concern.” The Whitney debut followed a year’s study of Edvard Munch in Norway, another latent influence on the otherwise strictly representational and crisply delineated paintings. While Lundin’s female nudes over the years (none of which are on view here) were classical studio poses, their sadness is straight out of Munch. Without the figures this time, “human concern” or presence- and absence-are still palpable in Denny and Gretchen’s Kitchen, Hotel-Coffee Pot and Cup, and Kitchen With Green Chair (all 2015). Chairs pulled out from the table, objects strewn across a tabletop, and a glowing carafe symbolize the aftermath of human encounter or conversation. Much of the best is left unsaid in Lundin, like the pauses in a Pinter play or the silences between couples in a Raymond Carver short story.
A few of the inside scenes appear more stagey in their positioning of elements. Remembered Detail III, Remembered Detail IV (both 2016) and Loft, Broken Window, Morning (2015) vary from 48 to 90 inches in width and vacillate between tight-focus and panoramic views of ladders, empty canvases, stacked paintings in a corner and an orange utility cord. Tools of the artist’s trade, all done without a single paint can in sight, sum up the simplicity of means and mastery of shadow and light that Lundin has at his fingertips at age 77. Separated Still Life is more forthright about lining up paint jars and solvent containers but, as a diptych at 80 inches wide, toys with identicality and simultaneity: each panel appears to be the same, but is not. Still Life in Four Parts (both 2015) attempts the same feat in a single rectangle five feet wide. Harking back to the set designs Lundin did for the Pacific Northwest Ballet 1988 production of Antony Tudor’s “Dark Elegies,” Flood Waters Receding (2015-16), Flood-Desert City (2016) and Looking Down, River Reflections (2015-16) upend horizons and water tables with their inverted compositions and wobbly reflections of trees and bridges. The outside is brought in for our delectation and immersion.
Hotel- Coffee Pot and Cup
oil on canvas
22″ x 32″
Photo: courtesy Greg Kucera Gallery