Standing in front of Kevin Mack’s wonderfully spazzy “Evolution Engine” (above) at Brett Wesley Gallery, CityLife art critic Jenessa Kenway and I are continuing a conversation about Mack’s New Forms show (hanging through Dec. 1). As you'll recall from the transcription in the Nov. 15 issue of CityLife, these digitally manipulated paintings abound with touches reminiscent of Salvador Dali, Jackson Pollock and others. Here’s an outtake from that conversation in which we elaborate on the way Mack seems to be slyly conversing with art history.
Jenessa: The thing I liked about this one is that you have these metallic parts, but then you have these green forms, and they look to be plants -- there’s a bit of recognizable vein from a leaf up in there. That was the first painting I saw when I walked in, so I was like, Wait a minute, these aren’t just abstract, there are little fragments of reality.
Scott: This is clearly piping of some kind, it looks like -- maybe an engine.
Jenessa: Yeah, you’re like, Is that the squished-up front of a motorcycle …?
Scott: In which case it might also have overtones of John Chamberlain, the crushed-car guy? [Chamberlain was an artist most famous for sculptures made of crushed vehicles.]
Jenessa: Oh, yeah, John Chamberlain’s sculptures -- that’s a good reference. Because they do have that kind of squished-up motor thing, which again relates to abstract expressionism, because he was influenced by DeKooning. So this is kind of the next evolution in this progressive movement of art …
Scott: And it’s probably much cheaper than actually crushing a car. Much easier to do.
Jenessa: Maybe, maybe … if you had friends in the junk industry, maybe you could get one easily …
Scott: (Gesturing to the top center of the painting) Not to keep throwing out specious art-history references, but this almost looks a little like a van Gogh sky …
Jenessa: (Sounding dubious) With the ripples, yeah, maybe a little …
Scott: (Pointing to the green splash in the middle) This almost looks like it goes from antifreeze to plant life --
Jenessa: From chemicals to organic matter to leaves. You could really spend a long time picking up a thread in the painting, following it through and trying to work out the grand scheme of what’s transpiring in this work.
Scott: Anything else?
Jenessa: That’s all I got