Jack Stuppin landscape paintings range from fanciful to menacing
By Victoria Dalkey, The Sacramento Bee art correspondent
P>From the golden hills of Sonoma County to the bleak rock formation of the Farallon Islands, Jack Stuppin takes an idiosyncratic approach to depicting the landscape of Northern California.
|Bright colors and quiltlike patterns mark the landscape paintings of Jack Stuppin. |
Though known as one of the plein-air painters called the Sonoma Four, Stuppin's work steps outside the boundaries of al fresco painting and crosses over into a visionary realm most often inhabited by naive or "outsider" artists.
There is a decidedly primitive cast to Stuppin's work, even though he's studied art with Jay De Feo and Sam Tchakalian at the San Francisco Art Institute and is a habitué of the Venice Biennale and major museums and galleries all over the world. Looking at many of his paintings at b. sakata garo, one is reminded of the animate landscapes of Joseph Yoakum, in which mountains and other land forms often resemble human bones, musculature and facial features. On the other hand, Stuppin's thick, glossy, directional brush strokes and bold colors make one think of the fanciful Funk landscapes of Maija Peeples-Bright. Stuppin's palette often reminds one of Robert Else's early paintings of the foothills.
The impossibly pretty colors, whipped cream clouds and quiltlike patterns of works such as "Saint Helena From Pine Flat Road," "Birth of the World," and "Ceanothus" usher you into a Neverland made of food coloring, candy kisses and cake frosting. Using arbitrary directional brush strokes, he gives us shrubbery and vegetation that bear little relationship to reality, and quirky clouds that seem sprung from the imagination instead of nature. As art critic Mark Van Proyen points out, the greenery in his pictures sometimes resembles the produce aisles of a Nugget market.
A series of works, based on a painting sojourn to the Farallon Islands (off San Francisco), has a grimmer and more menacing quality. The hulking, round rock form in "Main Top" rises like the wrinkled head of a sea monster, a forerunner of the Kraken in the second "Pirates of the Caribbean" movie, or a giant meatball squashing Mr. Natural in a Zap Comix from the 1960s. Building rock forms out of chevrons and triangular forms in "Window Rock" and "Chocolate Ship," he creates a savage world in which the craggy rocks that stick up from the sea resemble members of Davy Jones' fishy crew locked in unholy embraces while waves wash in like curly wraiths haunting the uninhabitable Farallons.
The paintings at b. sakata garo range from small plein-air studies -- some of which are fairly conventional works that might have been done by a Sunday painter -- to large canvases made up of stylized landscape details rendered with aggressively worked brush strokes. The latter have an almost sculptural feeling ("Window Rock" almost looks like a ceramic or enamel mural) and shiny, shellacked surfaces that add a further note of surreality.
In the smaller pieces, Stuppin wrings a certain amount of charm from the primitive spatial anomalies in works such as "New Day Spring" and "Pepperwood Day," but others, among them "A Beach for Walking," seem unfinished.
Like Goldilocks, I found the midsized canvases the most satisfactory, especially an earlier version of "Main Top" that had a grittier feel and more direct sense of touch than the later version, which had a disturbingly manufactured look. Too bright, too shiny, too stylized, several of Stuppin's most recent large canvases seemed almost totally divorced from nature, closer to Disney than Van Gogh.
Jack Stuppin Paintings