Todd McKie: Suitable for Framing
May 6 – 28 at Gallery NAGA
May begins with new paintings by Todd McKie, whose simple figures presented in entertaining situations are actually quite complicated. These highly developed narratives, set against colorful and active backgrounds, brim with McKie’s dry wit.
Todd McKie: Suitable for Framing runs from May 6 through 28. A reception for the artist and the public will be held at the gallery on Friday, May 6 from 6 to 8 pm. Images of the works in the show can be seen at gallerynaga.com.
McKie’s mostly solitary figures, reflecting his interest in tribal art and elemental forms, are anything but straightforward. Some, just outlines of a figure, appear drawn by a children’s hand. The lines are irregular and meander and often looked scrubbed or scratched out. That’s part of the works’ charm. In fact, however, the scenes are laboriously developed and calculated and reward prolonged engagement.
In his artist statement for this exhibition, McKie explains his thoughts. “I’m often asked, “Where do you get your ideas?” The question has always amused and stumped me, for it seems to presume that there is a central clearing house for ideas, a toll free number one can call to order ideas for paintings. I wish there were! I sometimes resort to a couple of stock answers. “Paris, I’ll say, or “I buy used ideas from an outfit in the Philippines.”
“The truth (and we are on a truth mission here, aren’t we?) is more complicated. I look at art by Eskimos, Africans, Pre-Columbians, Mesopotamians, Miró, Picasso, Dubuffet, children, mental patients, and those nutty Etruscans. I live my little life. And I draw a lot. From this rich and messy stew, spiced with pain and pleasure, come my ideas.”
In pieces like Jubilee and Big Rock the narrative has been relinquished nearly entirely. Diamond shaped pendants, attached to a chain, hang down the length of the canvas. The pendants glow like stained glass set against quiet shifts of background color.
Ever Been to Venus? depicts a green, oblong head floating in space among dozens of shapes all done in differing shades of blue. These abstractions vary from opaque, hard edged shapes to floating scrims of barely-there hues. Don’t Look Now, But I Think We Have Company portrays a lampshade-headed figure eyeing a minty form that appears to be disintegrating. Set against a lime green background and yellow halo descending from the top, the image’s story is enigmatic. What’s clear is that McKie is fascinated by color.