PAINTING THE VOID
Painting the Void
WTFDIAM (c. 2015), Random Thoughts (2017), Circle Jerks (2019) and Many Rivers to Cross (2019) are four of Ford Crull’s recent paintings although the exhibition showcases more than a decade of his works. They affirm, if any affirmation were needed, that Crull remains an unapologetic painter of extravagant, idiosyncratic vision who has no doubts about his métier. His focus on a single medium seems remarkable at the moment, since such singularity has become rare among younger artists for whom diversity in disciplines is the norm. But Crull, a New York-based artist with a studio in lower Manhattan, is a painter. He has always been a painter and having chosen it--or perhaps it chose him—continues to find in it an inexhaustible source of possibilities.
These paintings have had many antecedents over the decades of his prolific production.
Progression as a linear proposition is not a concept that engages him, fully aware that no moment is the same and no painting is the same, his model more that of circular time and recurrence, although perhaps more as symbolist metaphor than theoretical physics. He is an artist who seems to have complete faith in subjectivity. Guided by intuition (he sometimes makes “blind” paintings), he deep-dives into his unconscious—or a collective unconscious—of signs and symbols and seizes what he discovers there. The resultant paintings reflect a confluence of circumstances that depend upon a preternaturally mindful state of being as well as the ability to let go, abetted by skills mastered through years of painting and by the process of painting.
His style incorporates both abstraction and figuration and a horror vacuii in signature all-over compositions that summon up images of genesis and apocalypse, pushing far beyond the picture plane. The works, no matter their actual or illusionistic dimensions, almost always appear vast, oceanic, pictures of micro- and macroworlds. Each brims with a characteristic lexicon of imagery and pulses with an exhilarating and distinctive rhythm, visually expanding and contracting, an exhalation and inhalation that suggests the body’s breath, or the ebb and flow of earthly or cosmic phenomena. The paint is brushed, smudged, smeared, and dripped, creating a sense of percussive eruptions and transitions. They might be described as energy fields, and are more visceral than cerebral, to be sensed and experienced.
The earliest of the four is the boldly colored WTFDIAM, its forms strung across the painting like playful flags signaling a grand opening or decorative holiday embellishments. Primarily text, the words are only legible after a longer look. It asks one over-riding eschatological question alluded to in the title—but I’ll let you decipher that for yourself. Random Thoughts, made two years later, is also text-based, but cool in tone, the ground a lyrical mix of pastels inscribed with quick questions and non-committal answers in a spikey script, a kind of vernacular existentialism scrawled by street taggers who’ve read Albert Camus.
In Circle Jerks, his symbols are either enclosed in translucent globes, float outside of them or are layered beneath, like pentimenti, the most frequent that of a Greek cross or variants thereof, three-leafed plants that might be beneficial or toxic, arrows, irregular geometric forms and what suggests ancient Egyptian hieratic script to me. Many of the symbols are seen across cultures and encourage wide-ranging associations and multiple readings. In other works, for instance, I see fleur-de-lis, fiddlehead ferns, and hearts. White etherealizes the painting as it radiates from the center and seeps throughout the ground, pumping it full of space, as if lifted by drafts of upward air, each globe a parallel world, part of the multiverse.
Many Rivers to Cross, one of the highlights of the show, is more obviously full-spectrum and underscores Crull’s fearlessness as a colorist. Densely packed, symphonic, it is dominated by electric shades of reds, greens and blues, with spidery botanical drawings etched in white and text scribbled in black. White gives way here to a dazzling yellow, like a river of pure gold coursing through a teeming, kaleidoscopic panorama, a passage to paradise or perdition.
Fantasias and reckonings, these are paintings to explore and revel in.
Lilly Wei is a New York-based art critic, writer and independent curator.
Ford Crull was raised in Seattle, where he graduated from the University of Washington.
His work is in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the National Gallery, Dayton Art Institute, and the Brooklyn Museum. His paintings were included in the important 1989 Moscow exhibition, “Painting After the Death of Painting,” curated by Donald Kuspit. Recent exhibitions have included shows in Shanghai, London, Milan, and Seattle.
Crull continues to explore the expressive power of personal and cultural symbols in a series of densely painted and vividly colored compositions. Crull uses identifiable images such as hearts, wings, crosses, and the human figure, as well as geometrical emblems and abstract forms whose meanings are less explicit. Words, in the form of cryptic, fleeting phrases, also animate Crull’s pictorial world..
Crull employs a myriad of symbols which variously imply a sexual unfolding, romantic suffering, occult wisdom, and transcendental release. These symbols coexist in a psychic atmosphere in which they overlap, dissolve, and reappear with a kind of furious insistence. The heart is among the most frequent of these symbols, combining love on both physical and spiritual levels. Crull’s written words act as a kind of voice which emerges from and disappears back into the highly worked surface. The scrawled, fragmentary phrases serve as kind of conscious counterpoint to the free flowing of gestural abstraction and symbolic forms. Color is the silent partner to language, infusing the welter of images with an enveloping emotional atmosphere, ranging from hot reds and golds to cool shimmering light blues and whites.
2020 Mosaic Art Space, Long Island City,, NY
2019 Georges Berges Gallery, New York, NY
2018 Ober Gallery, Kent, Conn. “ Then and Now” , Andria Friesen Gallery, Sun Valley , ID, Cross Contemporary ART, Saugerties, NY, “The Figurative Work” 1974 - 2018
2017 Abmeyer Wood Gallery, “A New Lexicon” Seattle WA
2016 Cross Contemporary ART, Saugerties, NY
2015 Ober Gallery, Kent, CT, Carter Burden Gallery, New York
2014 Cross Contemporary ART, Saugerties, NY
2013 Creon Gallery, New York, Abmeyer Wood Gallery, Seattle, WA
2012 Andria Friesen Gallery, Sun Valley , ID
2011 Abmeyer Wood Gallery, Seattle, WA, Rob Ober Gallery, Kent, CT
2010 Rachel Sheng Gallery, Shanghai, China Bund1919, Shanghai, China
2009 Andria Friesen Gallery, “Le Salon de F. Crull” Sun Valley, ID
2007 Howard Scott Gallery, “Now and Then” New York, NY
2005 Andria Friesen Gallery, “Favela” Seattle, WA, Howard Scott Gallery, “Samba” New York, NY
2004 Ulster County College, Visiting Artist, Stone Ridge, NY, FosterArt, “Voices” London, England, Cheryl Pelavin, “ Horror Vacuii” New York, NY, Goya-Girl, Baltimore, MD
2002 Arte 92, Milan, Italy
2001 Howard Scott Gallery, New York, NY
2000 Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts, "Ford Crull, Art Now". Montgomery, Alabama, Aurobora Press, “Monoprints”, San Francisco, CA
1998 M-13 Gallery, New York, NY, Ralls Collection, Washington, DC, Andria Friesen Gallery, Seattle, WA
1997 Lafayette College, "Works on Paper 1980-1996", Easton, PA
1996 M-13 Gallery, New York, NY, Han Art Contemporain, Montreal, Canada
1995 Zolla Lieberman Gallery, Chicago, IL., "Le Fin de Millenaire"
1994 Aurobora Press, "Monotypes", San Francisco, CA., M-13 Gallery, New York, NY
1993 Davidson College, "Work From the Eighties", Davidson, N.C., Jan Baum Gallery, Los Angeles, CA
1992 Linda Farris Gallery, Seattle,WA, Jan Baum Gallery, Los Angeles, CA, Zolla Lieberman Gallery, Chicago, IL
1991 Galerie Michel Bigué, Montreal, Canada , Fay Gold Gallery, Atlanta, GA, Gloria Luria Gallery, Miami, FL, M-13 Gallery, New York, NY
1990 M-13 Gallery, New York, NY, Fay Gold Gallery, Atlanta, GA
1989 Gloria Luria Gallery, Miami, FL, Miami Dade College, Miami, FL
1988 Roy Boyd Gallery, Chicago, Linda Farris Gallery, Seattle, WA, G. H. Dalsheimer Gallery, Baltimore, MD
1987 Roy Boyd Gallery, Los Angeles, CA, M-13 Gallery, New York, NY, Linda Farris Gallery, Seattle, WA, Pelavin Editions Gallery, New York, NY, Fay Gold Gallery, Atlanta, GA, Roy Boyd Gallery, Chicago, IL
1986 Roy Boyd Gallery, Los Angeles, CA
2019 ESKFF Foundation, “Of Sight and Sound.” Mana, Jersey City, NJ
2018 SPRING/BREAK Art Show, STRANGER COMES TO TOWN!
BRIC Stoop Series, “Of Sight and Sound.”
2017 Chashama, Anita’s Way. New York October 17 “Of Sight and Sound”
2015 Mystery of Anticipation. St. John Church, New York, March 15
2012 Woodstock Film Festival. Special art performance. SPAF, October 12
2011 “Fierce and Delicate, the brief history of a painting”. Radar, Seattle. August 27
2010 Bund1919 Shanghai. “East /West”. June 14
Boise Art Museum, ID
Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn, NY
Bund 1919, Shanghai, China
Cedars- Sinai Hospital, Los Angeles, CA
Champion Paper, Inc.
Chermayeff & Geismar Associates, New York, NY
Citicorp Bank, Los Angeles, CA
Coca Cola, Atlanta, GA
Dayton Art Institute, Dayton, OH
Expedia Corp. Seattle
Hallmark Corp. Kansas City
Amerada Hess, New York, NY
The High Museum, Atlanta, GA
IBM Corporation, San Jose, CA
Memphis Brooks Museum of Art, Memphis TN
J.P. Morgan & Co., New York, NY
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY
Mobil Oil Corporation, New York, NY
Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts, Montgomery, AL
Muhlenberg College, Allentown, PA
Muscarelle Museum of Art, College of William & Mary, Williamsburg, VA
National Gallery of Art, Washington, D. C.
Orlando Museum of Art, Orlando, FL
Otis Elevator, San Francisco, CA
Prudential Insurance Company, New York, NY
Security Pacific Bank, Seattle, WA
Sonoma State University
Sun Bank, FL
United Parcel Service, Atlanta, GA
U.S. Department of State, Washington, D.C.
US West, Seattle, WA
Valley National Bank of Arizona
Washington Mutual Savings Bank, Seattle, WA
Washington State Art in New State Buildings Program, Kitsap County
Westinghouse Corporation, Pittsburgh, PA
Zimmerli Art Museum, New Brunswick, NJ
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