Visual ArtCurrently Hanging: Buried Alive in Eric Elliott's Paintings
by Jen Graves
on Mon, Jan 7, 2013 at 12:58 PM
Eric Elliott calls this painting Sunlight.
Eric Elliott's 2008 paintings of the plants and furniture in his studio were so thick and gray, it was as though he'd buried his studio alive. They're like the color-drained life forms Allyce Wood makes. She's growing a world in black and white. It's sprawling but painfully restrained.
Back to Elliott. His new paintings introduce a new element: feverishly tropical color as the burial soil. And he's playing pieces off each other for the first time, too. Photinia with Green Background and Sunlight aren't officially a diptych, but they should be. There's radiance and mud in the oil and spraypaint of Sunlight—water and light. Photinia is bone-dry, waiting. Together they're a photosynthetic system. It's inadvisable to their health to separate them.
Photinia with Green Background, left, and Sunlight
This is the first time Elliott's using spraypaint, and it adds a welcome gleam of mysticism, a teetering at the edge of hard materiality. Sunlight is a snack version of The Rose—the painting Jay DeFeo spent seven years creating, the painting Bruce Conner says claimed her sanity, the one Greil Marcus called her Frankenstein's monster. (Hyperallergic happened to publish a review of DeFeo's retrospective this morning. If you don't have time to read the whole thing, take a look at the pictures—swim goggles! false teeth! empty eyes like the arches of the Brooklyn Bridge!—and watch SFMOMA's three-minute film with Conner, who was present when The Rose was hoisted out the window of DeFeo's studio and he thought she'd go out the window, too.)
DeFeo was a Beat heroine and the incarnation of outsiderness. As John Perreault opined, "How can you not love an artist who in 1959 would allow herself to be photographed by the neo-kabbalist Wallace Berman naked in front of The Rose with arms and legs stretched out in the da Vinci pose?" Eric Elliott is no such character. He doesn't perform the romantic role of the artist. He paints, soberly. Then again, a painting like Sunlight is a reminder that there's nothing much sober about painting—or, really, the whole project of burying something alive in order to reanimate it as art.