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Quang Ho: A Retrospective

12/02/2011 - 04/14/2012

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By keying into the poetics of his paintings, we expirience them not as final statements of a particular still life, landscape or portrait, but rather as a token of his mental and physical process of painting itself.

Quang Ho Exhibit

Click the Image to Enlarge

    Quang Ho deceives us. We immediately think of him as an artist adhering closely to 19th century academic painting traditions. But closer scrutiny of these works reveals that he applies paint with palette knives, cloths, sponges, fingers and hands along with a clutch of brushes. He leaves traces of under painting, pentimenti, as well as of impasto. He varies the viscosity of the paint, leaving some areas with thick globs of paint scumbled across this varnishes. He scores, dredges, and scrapes away wet pigments. All of these markings leave us with some of the most exciting visual effects ever produced.

 

    In fact, the painterly exuberance of these recent works thrills us. His interest now resides less in tonal painting than in a real where paint and painting per se proclaim a poetic independence freed from their depictions. The material properties and varied application of the paint produces a tension that compels us to continue scrutinizing their surfaces.

 

   But his adherence to traditional subject matter trips us up. For all of his work's similarity to the realist painterly traditions of late 19th century in France and America --Manet, Carolus-Duran, Sargent, Sorolla, and Chase come to mind-- his artistic vocabulary is actually grounded in the poetics of abstraction. While colors describe that which they depict, they also very much hold their own and convey an internal logic on their own terms not unlike the works of many of the Abstract Expressionists.

 

     For example, the macchia of red-orange against a French blue on the inside collar of Jack Watson's shirt, or the faint turquoise ground applied beneath the Windsor Blue in the sky of Eastern Plains II, suggest that tone and inflection are stronger than mere depiction. In this light, we understand that his poetic strategies outweigh the mimetic and illusionary qualities in many of these works.

 

    This equivocation between paint and what painted is in fact what we experience, and what takes viewing them to a higher plane. By keying into the poetics of his paintings, we expirience them not as final statements of a particular still life, landscape or portrait, but rather as a token of his mental and physical process of painting itself.

       

      We may even find ourselves experiencing his personal artistic vocabulary with its own syntax and internal logic. We wonder how he manages these passages-in some cases with considerable élam, in others less so, but nonetheless, with erstwhile courage for facing the challenge.

 

Timothy James Standring

Gates Foundation Curator of Painting & Sculpture

Denver Art  Museum