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Guy Diehl
Dolby Chadwick Gallery, San Francisco, California
Recommendation by DeWitt Cheng


Guy Diehl, "Still Life with Matisse," 2015, acrylic on canvas, 22 x 30"

Continuing through December 5, 2015

Appropriation and Old-Master realism are considered strange bedfellows — if not resolutely antithetical — in contemporary art, as appropriated subjects are usually repurposed photographically or digitally and used to ironic effect, a far cry from the deliberate technique required for traditional rendering in oil paint. Guy Diehl, however, has been marching to the beat of his own aesthetic drum for decades. In this show he continues to craft stunning still lifes of objects set on tables and spotlighted against dark backgrounds or voids, borrowing from the Spanish and Dutch still-life tradition that dramatically emphasizes the subject matter and lends it monumentality, even a spiritual or metaphysical dimension, as in Caravaggio and Chirico. Along with bottles and decanters, with their sumptuously rendered reflections and refractions, we get white linen tablecloths.

Diehl adds art books and postcards, referring to visual-culture heroes like Diebenkorn, Matisse, Malevich, Morandi, Rothko, Schiele and maybe Ralston Crawford. The compositions and colors of the arrangements fuse realism and abstraction subtly but to great effect. Two homages to Zurbaran lack the mechanical reproductions (handmade, of course), but the Spanish painter is nicely evoked with with bowls or plastic bags of oranges resting on the tabletop stage against the black backdrop. In several other works, standing calipers assume an anthropomorphic role: bow-legged Vitruvian man, resolutely taking the measure of art and artists.


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