Barry Blinderman


Edited catalog essay to

Ultra Buzz: Karin Davie, Peter Hopkins, Fred Tomaselli

Johnson County Museum

Kansas City, Mo.



A sense of swirling viscosity and suspension as well as a keen awareness and application of the visual seduction at work in our image-saturated lives characterize the work of Karin Davie, Peter Hopkins and Fred Tomaselli. Each of these artists lures the viewer with an obvious visual hook –  Davie’s gyrating out-of-body stripes; Hopkins’ holographic foils, glittering fabrics, and poured cosmetics and medical waste; and Tomaselli’s inner landscapes of prints, pot leaves and pills. Each also revels in long-tabooed illusionism, using visual tricks to initiate a time release meditation on how technology has altered our way of seeing – enhancing yet not displacing art’s Dionysian power to shed the transitory through an acute overindulgence of the senses.

     While philosophers, computer scientists and neurologists grapple with the nature and location of consciousness, 60’s counterculture’s more intuitive discoveries – the visceral overtones of droning electric guitar; the visual, aural and temporal hallucinations induced by mind-bending drugs; the mantras and mandalas of Eastern religions – have been gradually assimilated by the popular media and accelerated to a fever pitch in the form of “rave” culture techno-psychedelia , mesmerizing computer animated TV graphics and high definition video games. In contrast to color-field painting’s adherence to rigid formalism, Minimalism’s dismissal of metaphore and Op’s “shalt not” attitude towards imagery, Davie, Hopkins, and Tomaselli infuse their patterned abstractions with provocative and often questioning references to this highly charged landscape.

     Whatever theory of de-evolution, death, resurrection or reincarnation of painting you subscribe to, one thing is plain to anyone who bothers to take a close look: painting is trying to get out of itself, to spring into the more traveled zones of the semiotic spectrum. In fact, the word “spring” aptly addresses the work of the three artists under consideration – it implies a lightness, suppleness, coiling, fluidity, a brief  but ecstatic defiance of gravity. Ironically, one of the most intriguing ways in the 90’s to accomp lish the aforementioned escape act is not, as in previous decades or in current installation-based art, to abandon the format of a two-dimensional rectangular support hung on a wall, but rather to subvert it by embracing it. This is not to suggest that these artists follow the time-honored tenets of painting to the letter: Hopkins and Tomaselli use collage and substitution as their primary technique, and only Davie uses brushes and canvas in any traditional sense.

     In order to avoid the Euclidian confines of linear perspective and the equally limiting High Modernist delusion of flatness, these artists are among the growing number who choose to create a space situated neither through

nor on it's surface – one that projects outward into the viewer’s realm. This is screen-based thinking, practiced intuitively by the first two generations of image makers for whom television and computers are not mere inventions, but tangible apparitions that convey experience. Responding to the mesmerizing patterns in their work, which emerge like rainbows in pools of water or oil, we become conscious of a layer that removes itself from the support – exists outside of painting – despite the groundbreaking references to modernists painting’s heyday in the 50’s and 60’s. Perhaps the paradox  I’m circling around here explains painting’s continued relevance – it is at once a sign of the hand, a primeval mark in time and space, a relic, a commodity, a precursor to the virtual nexus of “graphical user interface”. It is also a stubborn testament to, memorial of, and surrogate for the spit, skin, blood, and sweat that are true corporeal measure or our existence.


Barry Blinderman


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