Visual Art

Julianna Thibodeaux

Funk and Eickhoff: Opposing Forces

Galerie Penumbra

Through Nov. 30

'Diver' by Ed Funk

It's not as unlikely a pairing as you might think. In fact, you could consider them protégés of one another; Ed Funk, the master printmaker, painter and classic abstractionist, and Matt Eickhoff, who tends towards the figurative, but with a moody, even quirky - one could say abstracted - use of color. Funk and Eickhoff, both with studios in the Murphy Art Center, play off one another's strengths in their current collaborative/dual show, Opposing Forces at Galerie Penumbra in Fountain Square.

Funk, the more seasoned of the two, has been making art much longer; he has a life history, you might say, that may or may not inform his work. But he's confident and sure of his voice, while Eickhoff, the younger of the two, is an enthusiastic and gifted artist who is finding his way with paint and composition, explored through a uniquely personal voice - often with family photos as subject matter.

Eickhoff is considered one of the city's more innovative up-and-coming painters; and while this is legitimate, it's also true that in order to hone one's aesthetic chops, experimentation is far more important than early recognition. Eickhoff hasn't been stymied by the early recognition. His paintings in the Penumbra show are thoughtful and interesting, and, thankfully, not overly careful. For instance, Eickhoff uses color as a form of expression rather than a representation of what he sees. His multigenerational family portrait "Concerning the Order of Birth" may be a tad clunky in its figuration, but the color is what makes it interesting, what takes it out of the realm of the conventional. The figures have golden yellow skin, lending them an egg yolk glow - almost impressionistic, but not quite; the light is too static. He's at his best when he veers from sharp detail, and instead evokes the essence of what he sees, particularly through the use of color.

Funk also waxes poetic with color. In the case of his larger-scale abstractions, such as "Inlet," classic Funk riffs depict a happy inner world - or so it seems. Funk employs brilliant tones and layers, joins and topples them over and under one another in crescent shaped forms, oversized squiggles and pre- (or post-) symbolic markings. In fact, Funk calls himself a mark-maker, and that he is; one imagines him spontaneously and gleefully laying down a pastiche of form and color to evolve a collaborative visual playground.

'Holy Ghost' by Matt Eickhoff

But without tension, these would simply be pretty pictures. And this is where the artists arguably make their greatest impact. Funk achieves it in "Inlet," in which water is suggested, water that flows down and threatens to overtake the happy chaos of form and color below. Eickhoff makes it happen in landscapes such as "Utah," in which barren, brown spaces and an empty road snaking in the foreground suggest places to go from here, contrasted with portraits such as "Holy Ghost," employing Funk-like color (or does Funk employ Eickhoff-like color?).

Then there's the Funk-Eickhoff painting, "Opposing Forces," one of the most intriguing pieces in the show: a melding of Eickhoff's hazy landscape with Funk's controlled but slightly off-kilter celebration of form. But this appears to be more Eickhoff than Funk; the abstraction lies underneath the recognized forms of trees and earth.

Opposing Forces, then, is not necessarily oppositional; rather, the artists give just enough to send one another off to distant lands where the paint dances, and moving to a new beat is more than a possibility.

Paintings by Matt Eickhoff and Ed Funk are on view at Galerie Penumbra, 1043 Virginia Ave., through Nov. 30. Visit www.galeriepenumbra.com or call 508-8043 for hours and information.

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