Washington, D. C.

Tim Beard

Anton Gallery

Tim Beard’s work is generally small, intimate, and geared more toward private than public experience. The 16 oil paintings and 8 drawings on display here represent an approach to abstraction that aligns Beard with the work of artists such as Bill Jensen and Harriet Korman; his is an unglamorous but significant sensibility.

The largest painting in the exhibition, I Took Acoma (all works 1988), is composed of rich patined colors—pink, grays, golds, and green. Beard shows the influence of William Baziotes in his frequent passages of close color values and in his use of various kinds of archetypal images. These features impart a certain mythic sense to Beard’s work that recalls Baziotes’ primordial themes. However, there is more involved here than simple appropriation of Jungian imagery. All of Beard’s shapes and lines are rendered in a rather awkward, freehand manner that emphasizes process, something generally foreign to the work of Baziotes. Even in layering color, Beard refuses the careful balance, finish, and the subtle elegance that typically allow Baziotes’ forms to float in atmospheric space.

A more instructive parallel to Beard’s work is that of Arthur Dove. Compositionally, Dove’s influence is clearly present in Break Spot Out, a painting in which a dark rectangular form (with a black “spot” tangentially connected to one side) is silhouetted against a radiant gray-gold oval. In this work and elsewhere, Beard, like Dove, eschews easy formulas for exploiting a single visual idea into an extended series; instead, he begins anew, almost from ground zero, with each new work. Beard’s work reflects the emphasis Dove placed upon the particular as opposed to the general, thus echoing a belief that it is the artist’s experiential relationship to the immediate world around him, not an imaginary larger world of utopian or primordial myth, that is the proper subject of art. For Beard, meaning has to do with the self as it is located in the world and individuated through the process of art-making.

Beard’s approach lends a subtle psychological tension to some work, suggesting the role of incidents from the artist’s personal life. Though always abstracted and veiled, this tension still exists. In Ready to Roll it is produced by the close value structure and cramped composition, created by the layering of two large rectangles (set ajar) and two wobbly ovals. The idiosyncratic structure betrays the physical and psychological struggle involved in the work’s creation, revealing Beard’s willingness to take chances and accept risks. What is underscored here is a continuing belief that painting is neither a depleted activity nor a vehicle of grand public display, but an introspective and revelatory enterprise. Without recourse to the usual angst-ridden, tortured brushwork, Beard injects all of his paintings with a dimension that offers a glimpse into the artist’s character—a quiet, diffident self in a struggle for identity.

Howard Risatti

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