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Jamie Bollenbach
at NOMA Gallery, San Francisco, California
Recommendation by Dewitt Cheng

The female nude may be the starting point in Jamie Bollenbach's paintings, but his process leads to amazingly unexpected results.

Continuing through October 15, 2011

Seattle painter Jamie Bollenbach exhibits sixteen paintings that began with that traditional cynosure of male artists, the female nude, and evolved during the painting process into abstract landscapes or skyscapes — swelling, undulating membranes or tissues composed of flickering, fluttering black and white brushstrokes in perfect balance: M.C. Escher meets Roberto Matta. The artist’s multiple responses to the motif (“sound, scent, color, glimpses and memories of intense but uncertain emotions – fluid, eternally transforming, winking in and out of being”) are recorded in works like “Population,” “Intracosm,” “Manifest Interstices,” “Forms of Man and Woman Against a Cyclic Landscape,” and “Priscilla.” As a group they stand midway between figure-based abstraction (from cubism, futurism, and abstract expressionism) and ambiguous figuration (from surrealism).

Bollenbach, who studied with the contemporary portraitist Ann Gale, takes her analytical, fragmentary  approach — it’s also that of Cézanne and Giacometti — and uses it to explore the “inscapes” of the psyche. A pair of World War II sky paintings (“The Bombers” and “Americans’ Planes Are So Mush Prettier Than the Germans’”) featuring minute but deftly summarized B-17s (which veterans in Seattle and elsewhere are quick to decipher) summon historical memory. The title for the show derives from Walt Whitman’s poem, “Song of Myself:” “To me the converging objects of the universe perpetually flow, / All are written to me, and I must get what the writing means.... I laugh at what you call dissolution, / And I know the amplitude of time.”

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