Last Friday: Critique and Conversation, How to Paint a Pyramid.

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First of all, thank you to everyone who came. Thanks to the people who took time out of their schedule in the middle of a Friday afternoon, thanks to all those UNLV students who turned up (especially you in the red shirt, the one who came up with so many ideas), and thanks to Robert Beckmann himself, sitting in the back row near the Jason Adkins sculpture.


— the red shirt deciding that Porray painting makes you feel empathy while the Beckmann painting makes you feel sympathy.

— Beckmann pointing out that he had flipped his source material — Nicholas Poussin’s Winter (1660-1664) — so that everything on the right was on the left and everything on the left was on the right. I thought about the consequent secularization of Poussin’s Biblical work. The figures aren’t begging the Godly right-hand side for salvation any more.

— the person who was so eloquent about the subtle caramel-colored threat of the snake coming down the rocks in The Hundred Year Flood. It’s an empty part of the of scenery, said the person — all of the figures are busy on the other side — and then there’s this snake. (I’m paraphrasing, by the way. I don’t pretend to quote the person exactly.) Porray’s work is menacing in a different way (sharp edges, strong colors, restless, active shapes).

— Beckmann telling us that the antique ruins in the foreground were really part of the Mandalay Bay, and that the owner of the Mandalay Bay had bought the painting and donated it to the Las Vegas Art Museum.  Accessioned in 2004, according to a note on the back of the frame.

— the person with the unexpected theory about the double-triangle area at the center of Porray’s work. It’s like the top of a human being, she said, with the head cut off. Other ideas followed on from that.

— the surface of the Beckmann is smooth and perfect. Porray’s surface is torn and glued.

— the fragmented way we see our lives — the two paintings made up of parts.

— one student turned to Beckmann and said: teachers tell their students that they need to develop a single style and stick to it because that’s the most reliable way to have a career. What do you think about that? The artist responded by saying that exploring, exploring, was the most important thing, and if your practice led you in a new direction then you should follow that direction. I have different styles, he said. I have a box of tricks I can draw on. The paintings I’m doing now are closer to the Porray than to my own Hundred Year Flood here in front of us. (Again, I paraphrase.)

— the value of putting two things next to one another.


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