Review: Timothy Vermeulen 'Who am I?' 

4.5 stars

Dutch and Flemish panel paintings of the 15th and 16th century, often religious in subject matter, are a large influence on the work of Chicago-based Timothy Vermeulen. The religious, however, is often scrambled up with literary influences in Vermeulen's oil on panel work. Just consider a painting from his series based on Herman Melville's "Moby Dick." In "The Sermon" you see a preacher fulminating from a pulpit adorned with an anchor. (One of the two men in the pews, a bald guy in a hoodie, is a likeness of Vermeulen himself.) Painting large themes into small panels has so far worked out well for Vermeulen. There isn't always a lot of space, however, for autobiographical exploration in his "small autobiographical narratives," as he calls them. And yet there's evidence in "Persona II," which is the largest by far of the paintings here, of a change of direction. This work, his most recent, is a self-portrait. You see, in this painting, the masked artist sitting on a chair and the two walls converging at a corner behind him are decorated by a wide variety of masks. The painting style here is looser, as if he finds painting on a larger canvas liberating (so to speak: this too is a panel painting). If you like Vermeulen's art as much as I do, you might be excited to think about where this new direction will lead. Mt. Comfort (a space for champions); through July 30.

click to enlarge The artist depicted looking out beyond in "Standing the Mast-Head."
  • The artist depicted looking out beyond in "Standing the Mast-Head."

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