“Prince Vladvoda”, Pencil & neo-color drawing, 2013
Bob Lockhart: Musings
Pencil & neo-color drawings and ceramic sculptures
Review by Keith Waits
Entire contents copyright © 2014 by Keith Waits. All rights reserved.
“Good artists copy. Real artists steal.”
This quote opens Bob Lockhart’s mission statement for his new exhibit at PYRO Gallery, and it is clear that he views himself as an artist who steals, continuing in the statement to catalog Braque, Picasso, Klee, Chagall and Kandinsky as overt sources in building his most recent work. It is an audacious but refreshing claim, bracing in its honesty and humility.
If one takes the time to chart the thievery, the elements are all there in the work, most particularly Chagall, but having come of age in the 1960’s, Lockhart’s work also bears traces of the humor and whimsy we associate with art born of that era, and when I visit with some of the characters that live within his images, I cannot help but think of animated films I’ve seen from Eastern Europe and, in their embrace of a nearly psychedelic whimsy, even George Dunning’s film Yellow Submarine. As a student and as he ventured into a career as an adult artist, Lockhart would have been exposed to exactly the same cultural currents that inform that overlooked animated film. That subversive sensibility has been present in the artist’s work for quite some time, but he seems here, especially in the two-dimensional work, to be pushing it into a new realm.
For an artist renowned as a sculptor, his drawings are determinedly two-dimensional. Lockhart is less interested in building form than in building dense layers of graphic constructions; bold, confident line and rich, saturated color. It is an approach developed over time and, in this group of work, now possessing greater density and layering of visual elements that give the pictures more weight. Previous drawings were as accomplished but closer to a cartoon compositionally, an idea supported by long, humorous titles often obscure in their meaning. The new work doesn’t lack for that sense of humor, yet the images are like mosaics or hand-stitched fiber art, with the representational figures caught in an abstract field of meticulously rendered marks.
Most striking were a series of “Princes” that gathered on the wall across from the entrance into the gallery. The head and shoulders portraits feel, again, Eastern European, perhaps Serbian, and of another time and place. They could be the royalty from a deck of playing cards, but less static, more animated than any jack of diamonds. Holding implements or with nose hairs growing down into the flowing beard, there is a quality reminiscent of photographic multiple exposures, as the various visual stratas draw the viewer in and force closer examination. They are eccentric characters filled with fluid, expressive detail.
The three-dimensional pieces, busts of colorful human and animal forms, share much the same compositional structure of the “Princes” but are simpler, more direct translations of the Eastern European aesthetic, even if the titles don’t necessarily follow (“Everett”, “Klem” and “Dork”, to name a few), yet the reference seems inescapable when one considers the comically exaggerated features that include several heavy, walrus-mustachioed male characters with matching eye brows. There is also a totemic quality to these pieces (it is easy to imagine them physically stacked) that conjure a unified, tribal nature in their impact. Despite essential differences in detail, there is a brotherhood between them that goes beyond the repetition of form and the evidence of the same artist’s hand.
Lockhart’s “Musings” become a society of individuals, each full of its own distinctive and often eccentric details of personality. Once you become acquainted with the fullness of his populace, the word musings seems wholly inadequate to the vigorous humanity of the work that fills the exhibit. It is a world that crosses history with mythology with Fellini and deposits into our experience something wholly and uniquely Bob Lockhart.
There will be a Gallery Talk at PYRO with the artist March 15 at Noon.
Bob Lockhart: Musings
February 20-March 29, 2014
909 East Market Street
Louisville, KY 40202