Los Angeles

Jack Stuck

Comara Gallery

An old vaudeville joke goes something like this––Pat: “My cousin crossed a parrot with a black panther.” Mike: “What did he get?” Pat: “I don’t know what it is but when it talks you’d better listen!” The art scene is filled with many such mutant forms that combine unlikely levels of image which for the time can­not be explained away in conventional terms and can therefore hope to be listened to. In his recent forays beyond the esthetic peapatch, Jack Stuck has combined washroom graffiti and box-top puzzles with the compositional format of a Renaissance master to explore the disenchantment of good old Hollywood. Using Giorgione’s Pastoral Concert as a matrix he places unlovely figures in the poses of the two noblemen and their muses. The figures, now in gaudy bi­kinis or complacent nakedness, are lumpish with oversized hands and feet. They sit around a swimming pool in a stiff parody of the original. Giorgione’s gentle and undulating forms that suave­ly bind the figures into the tufted land­scape are gone and are replaced by the extremes of flat silhouetted shapes punctuated by errant spurts of foreshortening and obvious linear stage­space. The sauce of the atmosphere and luxurious textures of the landscape are now an airless sky, meticulously rend­ered and dotted with only the ghost con­tours of Giorgione’s trees (“Connect the dots and see what the Italian sees!”). A sporty roadster like an eighth grad­er’s image of a sports car is parked in the perspective distance where an Arcadian shepherd trod in the original. The separation of techniques within the same canvas is still more of the panther-parrot mix: parts are meticulously drawn in graphite pencil on the canvas, others are flat posterish areas in oil, and still others like the sky and water areas are a fastidiously blended, illu­sionistic painting. There are six paint­ings in the “Pastoral Hollywood” series, all nearly identical in layout but differ­ent in the ways that box-top puzzles are different (“Tell Uncle Andy which two of these pictures are the same.”). In one the figures may all be black sil­houettes, in others only two are black and two are merely pencil drawings; the car is there or not there, it is col­ored or not colored; the beer cans (re­placements for the lute and pitcher in Giorgione) are differently handled in each, etc. The pictures are stark, large, and visually challenging. When shown as a group in one room they attract a shifting attention because of the riddles. It is easy to have the feeling that “you’d better listen” even if it is against your better judgment. In another room are several “Bather” paintings in which awkward and unlovely men, complete with wet suits and swim fins, parade in an environment that contains many of the same visual puns. Several small intaglios on related themes are more conventional and ingratiating and their presence provides some plastic insight to the paintings. The impact of the show is one of social criticism, misan­thropic and without compassion, but these are not the brash delinquencies one finds in Pop art: someone is work­ing at the other end of these paintings though we may never know who. 

Doug McClellan