Art review: André Ethier at Honor Fraser
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André Ethier’s modestly scaled paintings at Honor Fraser create a remarkably consistent, darkly dramatic world of brilliant but sickly color: hot reds, burnt oranges and almost fluorescent greens flare out from grounds of muddy ochre and inky black. Mostly still lifes and portraits, they amp up the Old Master tradition with a healthy infusion of expressive brushwork and the stylized imagery of alternative comics.
The portraits in particular bring to mind the work of Giuseppe Arcimboldo, the Renaissance portraitist who painted his subjects as if they were made of various fruits and vegetables. While Ethier’s portraits don’t include such edibles, their bold strokes often divide the visage into a series of interlocking swirls and lozenges that recall the discreet pieces of Arcimboldo’s vegetal concoctions. With their confident paint handling and singularity of vision, these works are both redolent of art history and thoroughly eccentric.
The show falters when Ethier pushes this vision in more conventional directions. Several still lifes depict flowers that morph into eyeballs, fleshy lumps and orifices painted in a cartoony, Mad magazine style. From the 17th century Dutch masters to Cezanne and beyond, still life paintings have always served as metaphors for the cycles of life, from sex and fertility to death and decay: making this relationship so explicit is simply overkill.
-- Sharon Mizota
Honor Fraser, 2622 S. La Cienega Blvd., L.A., (310) 837-0191, through Sept. 4. Closed Sundays and Mondays. www.honorfraser.com
Images: Both paintings are untitled. The top image was created in 2009, the lower image, 2010. Photo credit: Josh White.