November 21, 2007
October 2, 2007—Stripped naked, all attributes removed, even stripped of all rhetoric surrounding the body, stand the men, women, and couples in Dan McCarthy’s recent body of paintings. For his forth solo show at Anton Kern Gallery, the New York painter selected a dozen canvases and a group of acrylic-wash drawings to be exhibited through November 21.
McCarthy continues his interest in the human figure and the human condition with an intensity and concentration that take his earlier bathers, surfers and skaters to a new level of idealism. In these near life-size paintings, the artist applies thin, almost watercolor-like layers of paint onto a carefully built-up flat, monochrome background, reducing the pallet to white, black and the primary colors red and blue. Sometimes the women, men, and couples seem pressed in space with their backs to the wall, or reverberating in the slight space between picture plane and ground. Characterized by concentrated lines, statuary posture and proportion, the figures are hemmed in, center stage, fully lit and alert.
The artist cautiously recites a call for a “return to classical principles” (reminiscent of the post-WWI spirit of neo-classicism championed by such artists as Cocteau and Picasso) fully aware that this century-old utopia has passed and needs complete readjustment. McCarthy does see painterly materialism in direct opposition to generating meaning. But the paintings eccentricities and impurities become the major ingredient in this invigorating infusion of sensual autonomy and freedom. “The proposal being: stand up and stand out, the quicksand of the material is at your knees and growing.”