Journeys displays two artists' divergent visions
Artists whose work couldn't look more different, Clive King and Fred Budin make work that nevertheless shares a common thread. Budin, a native New Yorker, and King, a Welshman, create paintings and drawings that look like subjectively rendered folklore.
In shades of frantic color in Budin's case, and in somber tones of gray in King's, the former treats the unique, insular community of urban Jews living in New York with straightforward verisimilitude, while King's monumental paper tapestry-stories weave the influences of his Welsh childhood and the similar mysticism revealed during his later travels to Mexico and the American Southwest. King's is the more rigorous and visionary folklore — reminiscent in its obsessiveness of outsider artists who have concocted an elaborate personal mythos that seems more propelled violently from their psyche than plotted out. King's work in the twinned-artist show, Journeys at Raymond Lawrence Gallery, ranges from smaller, lightly colored ink drawings and even smaller graphite on paper pieces. But the stars of the show are King's massive, 9-foot tall narrative pieces, huge graphite drawings illustrating the artist's peculiar treatise on the warring forces of nature and industry wresting the world apart. Countering the delicacy most often associated with drawing, King's works are instead full of phantasmagorical, almost sci-fi monumentality.
The mega-format of King's works gives them the edge of visionary madness that commands in-stant attention. The scale of the works seems less like artistic grandstanding and more a means of conveying the passionate gravity of his message. The images themselves are cryptic, so detailed with the scratchings and marks covering every surface that discerning exact forms and likenesses is difficult.
But that abstraction seems part of King's project; to create a new universal mythos of a world created and gone to seed as it might be rendered by the direct transmission of brainwaves to paper, by an anthropologist from Mars, a madman or a prophet. Says King of the sense of destruction contained within beauty that haunted his Welsh homeland, it's "an incredibly beautiful place where, beneath the mountain where I grew up, lay all sorts of nasty stuff from the mines. The mountains and valleys were lush and verdant, but the local streams had a malignant, sulfurous spill-out." At the risk of making political or environmentally or socially-appropriate art, a tack King seems very keen to avoid, the artist goes for the elemental, the primal, the otherworldly truths lurking in the world's peripheral vision.
A continued trope in King's work are figures that combine the appearance of Aztec or early cave painting symbols and the amorphous, biological shape of amoebas or spermatozoa. The figures rise like the seeds of life or some king and queen of civilization's dawn — a Stanley Kubrick monolith in the midst of chaos — or the seeds of life above the visual fracas of the images themselves; dystopian landscapes dominated by bolts of lightening or crazed armies of worm shapes, pits swallowing doomed souls or crude buildings offering shelter from the gathering storm in this eerie, hypnotic work.
Far more easily and instantaneously grasped, Fred Budin's painting/assemblages rendered on thick slabs of wood depict the city folklore of Jewish life witnessed by Budin growing up in Brighton Beach's community of first-generation immigrants.
Budin's work is cleverly made with its array of objects encrusted into the shiny painted surface. By shellacking buttons, shirt collar stays, crushed soda cans, computer disks and even adding machines, bottles and books into his found-object mosaics, Budin suggests the mad, chaotic clutter of city sidewalks, the sense of every corner of the metropolis imprinted with some sign of human occupancy. But the work is also fairly obvious. Its the kind of colorful, eye-catching expression of "diverse" city life favored by city arts councils and airports and found gracing government offices and libraries.
Journeys with Clive King and Fred Budin runs through Sept 30 at Raymond Lawrence Gallery, 75 Bennett St. in the TULA Arts Center. 404-352-5058. Tues.-Fri. 11 a.m.-5 p.m., Sat. noon-5 p.m. and by appointment.