Los Angeles

Tom Gardner

Heritage Gallery

Tom Gardner’s canvases are like the stage of a puppet show, filled with make-believe emotion and mechanical movement. He seems to work in the genre of expressionistic social commentary but his screaming buildings, which become hands, which twist around humans, cannot be taken seriously.

The oils look paced. Compositions are subdivided while color appears chosen for harshness rather than expressiveness. Furthermore the different hues, which happen to land evenly spaced throughout each picture, illustrate that muddiness does not always bring moodiness. Some palette-knife drawings in impasto, in “Waiting for Lunch” and decorative strokes in other pictures look deceptively like tries for richness in what was basically a barren first layer of paint.

In “Mass Decision,” “City Prescenes I,” and “City Prescenes II,” sacrificial sheep, the American flag, and a garbage can respectively, sit half-way up the canvas and to one side. They simply do not get into the composition and are not forceful enough to be significant emblems of the whole.

Gardner is an award-winning draftsman and several pen-and-washes in the show do contain some convincing energy so that this time the troubled human scene is more alive. But in oil, his shapes are unbearably limp considering the strong protest attempted, and the spoiled modern eye, accustomed to important negative space shapes, truly misses them here.

“Nude,” with projecting bones and an angular face, stretches across a field of unimaginative green. It unmistakably resembles a nerve-tortured body by Egon Schiele, but the comparison only sounds a weak echo of the Viennese Expressionist.

Believable emotion cannot be carried in a form which looks like a cold construction.

Molly Siple