October 31, 2009

The Lanterns Along the Wall

When I paid a visit to “The Fountain Of Giant Teardrops,” Neil LeDoux’s solo show at Silverman Gallery last year, I had seen only a very rough reproduction of one of the paintings in a newspaper. Underneath it was a small story regarding the roots of these pieces.

“He recounted seeing a fountain in the thick Louisiana forests, the fountain’s beauty was so astonishing that he immediately wanted to share it with his friends and family but when he took them back to see it it was nowhere to be found.” This piqued my interest, as the story seemed to work simultaneously as a veil and an entrance. When I was finally inside the gallery facing the paintings, I was immediately impressed by their size and their dealing so deftly in dark brown. I liked being given a story for work that was decidedly abstract.

Neil recently had new work hanging in the nave at CCA. When I saw the first piece, I was immediately reminded of the cover to a book by the great Moroccan story teller Mohammed Mrabet titled Harmless Poisons Blameless Sins. Neil’s work is more refined and the canvas still very large compared to any of Mrabet’s work, but their paintings share a quality of having cut a live and unknown organism in half, its tendrils flailing about in a dark pool unleashing some further form of pointed magic. They seem older than time, as if they had waited very long to be discovered.

There was a wall drawing which Neil told me he had done first thing — that it was to work as an antennae, to establish a signal and subsequent space for these paintings before they were hung. A smaller wall drawing was directly above an open doorway. The lighting in the nave was extremely flattering, but I couldn’t help but imagine keeping watch over the paintings by nightfall.

Neil told me to imagine a four-sided object, commenting about how simple and obvious that is for the mind to do. Then he said that when we try and imagine an object with five thousand sides we can’t do it. I immediately thought of looking into a bonfire, an act which I have come to think of as the oldest form of entertainment. The larger paintings here give a similar sensation. Textiles that breathe in smoke through one spot and blow it back slowly through another.

These pieces have a burnished gloss that the ones in “Fountain of Giant Teardops” didn’t. One large black and triangular painting possessed a texture driven so deep into the paint that it gave the appearance of being cut from stone. We also made a brief visit to Neil’s studio, seeing paintings like these half-finished was like seeing actual beings in various states of undress. Every piece I have seen of Neil LeDoux’s so far has been remarkable. There is nothing more honorable than an artist who is incapable of following any trend and is unwittingly cutting his own path.

Comments (9)

  • Frank Lostaunau says:

    the paintings have a feel of emergence holes…

  • Frank Lostaunau says:

    Hola Cedar…I’m very curious to hear how you experience contemporary American Indian baskets? Very little if anything has ever been written about contemporary American Indian art on this blog. You and the other blog writers seem to get around, would you ever consider sharing your impressions of indian baskets? http://www.twinrocks.com/products/4007-Navajo-Train-Basket-Set-Elsie-Holiday.html

    Your comments about your experience of what’s out there is quite touching.

    Quico Antonio Lostaunau

  • Neil, I would like to speak with you about the vision I had in 1985 in southern California. It was the middle of the night looking out among the trees in my yard imprinted on the large stone bbq pit. Looks to be very similar to your some of work. I was living in a large strange and eclectic house built in 1911 on a cornered acre of land, which we fondly referred to as the “pagota swiss chalet.”

  • Real New Agey vibe on this post huh? Groove on brothers……

  • Cedar

    Graduate school is full of trap doors,
    mines, and trip wires.

    it’s nice have a clear response
    from an open mind.

    Thank you for your light on the path.


  • I know I meant to say something about the the wall drawings resembling blue prints of hidden vaults in Grace Cathedral- underpinnings- the wall drawings are especially interesting set against the unfinished paintings in Neil’s studio. Distinction is the medium here not a long sought after end result.

  • LANTERNS! All the pieces are the size of Grace Cathedral. Kevin, will you bring the lantern to the Charles Olson play on Wednesday? Cedar! The Lantern is Write ON! I still need to copy the Weiner book.

  • Kevin Killian says:

    Cedar, how big are the pictures that come first and second in your article? I am thinking they must be massive, like cathedrals. Or are they tiny like those Russian icons you’d fit in your purse when fleeing the Cossacks? The second picture here has that cathedral structure we see in so much mid century San Francisco art, I mean, there’s a deliberate harkening back to older models? In any case good work.

  • Michelle Tea says:

    Your descriptions of the pieces are so wonderful! Totally want to see this show.

See all responses (9)
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