NEW YORK, NY.- More measured in appearance, Phyllis Bramson's latest paintings interject conceits about life. Hermetic juxtapositions employing motifs, vignettes and miniaturized worlds that talk back with capricious irritability, this recent work often plays with well known fairy tales. However, the painted "stories" are more loosely based narratives, which speak about longing, innuendo and clichés.
These recent paintings are as much about existential disturbances (and slippage between reality and fantasy), as they are about "painterly anxiety". Stressing the idea of looking as a form of intoxication and absorption, the work employs collage interventions and strategies of the hand.
Mostly, Bramson contends she is making paintings which percolate forth lifes imperfections, refusing to take decorum all that seriously, or to separate manners of taste from larger questions about good behavior.
In the previous body of work, Love and Affection in a Hostile World, that led up to the current paintings, Phyllis Bramson used images that are infused with lighthearted arbitrariness and amusing anecdotes about love and affection, in an often cold and hostile world. Mostly, she is making work that percolates forth lifes imperfections. The paintings are reactions to all sorts of sensuous events, from the casual encounter to highly formalized exchanges of lovemaking (and everything in between). Miniaturized schemes, which meander between love, desire, pleasure and tragedy; all channeled through seasonal changes. Burlesque-like and usually theatrical incidents, that allow for both empathy and addled folly, while projecting capricious irritability with comic bumps along the way.
The art writer Miranda McClintoc wrote: Phyllis Bramsons imaginative portrayals of stereotypical sexual relationships incorporate the passionate complexity of eastern mythology, the sexual innuendos of soap operas and sometimes the happy endings of cartoons. The art writer/critic Jim Yood, claims that Chicago figuration always involves figures under some sort stress.
Of increasing importance is the challenge of the field on which the paintings narrative operates, since it is no longer a firm support for the spaces in between things. The use of luscious planes of color, layer upon layer of subtly graduated glazes, create saturated color fields onto which subjects can frolic freely. The finished works become a site for sensuous discourse pushed into a precarious state that the viewer can get lost in. Frivolousappearing, albeit often overblown concoctions all intoxicatingly enveloped in the artists desire to project beauty.
Bramsons sources remain those of Rococo and Chinoiserie of the 18th century as well as Chinese Pleasure Garden paintings and the French painters, Boucher and Fragonard. The paintings of Fragonard usually dealt with pastoral pleasures, (often hiding a secret) and immoral luxury that had elements of the political; caricatures showing the decadent frivolity of his time, when the peasant class was starving. An art historian described Fragonards figures as always blushing and sensuous and the landscapes in which the figures dallied, as having the same attributes.
The narratives in her paintings remain incomplete, never really telling a coherent story and thus resembling abstracted tropes concerning romantic folly and loss. They are used as a repository for feelings, which often collide and intermingle between the personal and at the same time, propose a story that doesnt tell the ending. Paintings that wobble between private subjective values, social concerns and conceits, self subscribed metaphors, melancholic loss and cliché. It is the materiality, the philosophical as well as visual aspects of making a painting that that drives her work.
Phyllis Bramson advises MFA students in the Drawing and Painting Department at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and is Professor Emerita from the University of Illinois Department of Studio Arts. She has an extensive exhibition history and her work can be found in many important collections including the Art Institute of Chicago, Kresge Art Museum, Madison Art Center, National Museum of American Art, The Jane Voorhees Zimmerli Art Museum, Corcoran Museum, and the Milwaukee Art Museum, to name a few.