Review: Portraits at the Harrison Center 

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Hank & Dolly's Gallery's off the beaten path in the Harrison, so maybe you missed it last First Friday.  If so, there's still time to see this inspired group show curated by Nathan Foxton, who has an oil on panel work, simply titled "Self Portrait," here. 

You can easily recognize the painter's features and lock into his intense gaze through the muted hues. (There's color in this composition but you have to look for it.) Another self-portrait by Erik Probst, entitled "Actias Luna" goes off in a decidedly surrealist direction. Rising from a sepia background you see a man merged with a moth – his face white under luminous green wings – on the verge of metamorphosis. Afterwards, will he be able to fly? Not everyone in this show has so married of a muted palette:  Gustavo Ayala's oil on plywood "Straight," portrays a shirtless man from the waist up against a yellow backdrop, displaying abs and pecs that recall the "Before" photographs in those old Charles Atlas ads. Yet the delineation in the torso are stunningly rendered. So is the man's confrontational glare as he stares straight at you. Straight in what sense you might ask. If there's mucho testosterone in this particular exhibit, maybe it's offset somewhat by the addition of Katherine Fries' "Memory Projection Andrea: Kathryn," (oil on canvas). The portrait portrays the subject (in color) against a black and white photograph of (one assumes) an older relative, taken a long time ago.  In the painting, the photograph appears to be projected on-screen. You can see the similarities in facial features between these two close relatives, generationally separated. Certainly accomplished with dead-on realism, perhaps it's also a commentary of sorts.


Here's an actual painting projecting a memory forward into the moment, a painting and not a slide projector — an outmoded instrument that hardly anyone uses anymore. After the fall of civilization, with our smart phones turned into bricks, portraiture might again commonly be the task of the painter or sculptor. We're not there yet, as David Hicks demonstrates with his 3D printed "Patriot," a head sculpture of a dude wearing a tricorn hat. (Hicks is better known for his large apocalyptic paintings than his work with new media.)

Still, try telling Nathan Foxton – to his painted or to his actual face – that portraiture is dead in this iPhone moment.  Good luck with that.

Harrison Center for the Arts through April 29

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