Friday, July 20, 2012

Morgan Bulkeley Review in the Boston Globe

Morgan Bulkeley has a new show of frenetic, cartoonish, apocalyptic paintings at Howard Yezerski Gallery. Bulkeley populates chaotic landscapes with lumpy naked figures, keen-eyed birds, and other animals.

Morgan Bulkeley, Chasing Big Bucks, 2012
oil on canvas, 36" x 48"
In many works, he activates the entire field with a frenzy of characters and paint flecks. There’s satiric social commentary in paintings such as “Chasing Big Bucks,” in which many such characters wrestle and fight over fives and twenties. These invite laughter and a knowing nod, but several other canvases featuring a more focused composition with a central image inevitably go deeper.

Morgan Bulkeley, Where Late the Sweet Birds, 2011
oil on canvas, 36" x 48"
“Unfinished Hogan,’’ for instance, depicts a couple embracing under a dome made from branches that stick through sketches. One shows a man cutting through a branch with a chainsaw; another has a clown jabbing a Native American in the eye with his thumb. The wry, alarming commentary is still there, but here Bulkeley also grapples with himself, as he builds a shelter from products of his imagination.

Morgan Bulkeley, After Sleeping Gypsy, 2011
oil on canvas, 36" x 48"
In these works, the artist does not merely create a Three Stooges-like scenario that rails against how the human race has undermined the environment. Bulkeley more palpably evokes humanity’s vulnerability, and the thin scrims of protection we wrap ourselves in.

Morgan Bulkeley, Blimp/ Hogan/ Airplane/ Tepee/ Crash, 2012
oil on canvas, 36" x 48"
Blimp/Hogan/Airplane/Tepee Crash” has an aptly descriptive title - it’s a middle-of-the-night disaster. Inside the hogan (again, apparently constructed of sketches), a woman sleeps and a man, painted in black-and-white stripes, sits beside her. Is he watching over her, or is he a predator? Is she a stand-in for Gaia, or is she us? There’s mystery here that is less evident in works such as “Chasing Big Bucks,” and the satisfying sense that Bulkeley is more and more serving his imagination, rather than harnessing it to his own ends.

- Cate McQuaid
Globe Correspondent
June 27, 2012

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