New York

Chuck Connelly

Lennon, Weinberg

Perhaps his own best critic, Chuck Connelly declared in 1991, “I am on a journey drenched in paint.” Indeed his recent paintings illustrate his propensity to foreground the properties of oil in rich, tactile, densely packed surfaces that nevertheless complement the detailed imagery of his work.

For example, in Around The Park, 1991, the circular island of greenery—surrounded by a sidewalk filled with people, lanes of cars, and walls of buildings isstretched to its spatial limits through gestural brushstrokes that suggest a distorted angle of perception. Connelly’s preference for darker tones creates an atmosphere of apprehension in what otherwise would have been a bustling scene. If there is something provocatively reminiscent of Chaim Soutine here, in other renditions of urban subjects there are shades of that twisted interpreter of American life, Charles Burchfield.

Like Burchfield, Connelly tends to see the city through a critical eye that particularizes the undifferentiated urban landscape, lending it a certain organic quality. For example, in a large panoramic canvas entitled Sunrise Over The City, 1992, the buildings visible through the billowing stretches of sky belie the commonly held perception that skyscrapers are architecturally uniform. These buildings with their peaked roofs, situated along the banks of a river and framed by a mountain range, are illuminated by a bulls-eye patch of radiance between the mountain slopes, which casts a harmonious light that seemingly unites the natural and the man-made:,

In the large canvas Heaven and Hell, 1992, Connelly appropriates Christian iconography: Heaven is represented by one of Connelly’s cloud-covered skies, while Hell lies on the earth below. This interpretation of urban life is echoed by The White Flag, 1992 aneerie reminder of urban blight depicting decrepit tenements, their backyards piled with garbage—the title of which refers to a white sheet hanging from a fire-escape that could be either emblematic of hope, or a sign of resignation to destructive forces.

What, finally, Connelly so clearly reveals in this selection of paintings is the power of oil on canvas to dazzle and to seduce.

Ronny Cohen