mill-valley

Jim Barsness

Susan Cummins Gallery

Most of Jim Barsness’ mixed-media paintings (all works 1990) show real people striking attitudes that are both familiar and discrepant. We see the artist’s wife and children in the nude, full-length and hieratic rather than intimate. Taken from memory, the poses are idealized beyond anecdote, as if, in the course of their domesticity, these people had collectively assumed a double life that their individual features reflect. Their nudity is functional, a way of making what the artist calls “indelible character.” Looking at them, the discrepancies one recognizes relate to art history (scads of quotes from Renaissance examples obtain), but more so to art’s way of reminding us of how a pervasive grace may arise—and linger touchingly, illogically—in the most ordinary circumstances.

Barsness incises his figures’ contours with dark ballpoint blues on unstretched cloth often partially

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