|Dennison W. Griffith, Soliloquy, #31, 2012.|
Encaustic on panel, 50 x 39.5."
The Power of the Mark, is showing at Hammond Harkins, Griffith's gallery in Bexley, Ohio, until November 25. The show includes not only the paintings and drawings that I discuss, but also a show of photographs with its own title, Museum Studies, and an installation constructed of snow fence situated around the entrance to Capital University, across the street from the gallery. This is a very impressive body of work for any artist to have produced during 2011 and 2012, perhaps the more so for Griffith, who is also the very visible, deeply engaged president of Columbus College of Art and Design. Making art is the last thing the president of any institution would be expected to do.
|Dennison W. Griffith, Soliloquy #35, 2012.|
Encaustic on panel, 60 x 48."
The backgrounds, though, which at first glance appear murky, are composed of the colors of ellipses; they are dense mists of largely unseparated colors. This puts the the bold colors of the lozenges into meaningful relationship with their environments, creating not only the visual warmth, but a warming sense for the direction of their possible interpretations.
|Dennison W. Griffith, Untitled #8, 2012.|
Acrylic and graphite on paper, 29.5 x 34," framed.
So it's wonderful that Griffith's new series of spontaneous, untitled drawings is hung interspersed with the paintings in this show. I enjoy this style of mark-making, in which the artist works intuitively and allows himself to take what comes. This is not work in which one puts down marks, studies, erases, and goes at it again. The artist "just does it" without erasure or major modification. He takes the risk, and it works or doesn't. Often, it doesn't, so it requires honesty of eye and judgment, and brave confidence to work this way. (It also requires a willingness to dedicate a lot of expensive paper to drawings that won't see the light of day.)
The drawings feel simple and very light, yet the forms have gravity, sometimes more than those in the paintings. In Untitled #8, the contrast between the the very light colors of the paint, applied to the widely spaced loops he forms with it, contrasts effectively with the graphite. Usually reading as gray, here graphite feels black by contrast. As Griffith deploys it in the smudged drops and pools it reads as molten lead. Floating loops of light; heavy lumps of lead (almost literally), with horizons or guy-wires of floss and cable.
|Dennison W. Griffith, Untitled, #10, 2012. Acrylic and graphite on paper, 29.5 x 34," framed.|
But the yellow falls behind the descending column of shapes overpainted with white. These, and the extended form at the top right, again suggest the floating events from indefinite space, like we've seen in his paintings. Yet the easy, spontaneous, expressive quality of the marks here are particularly charming. We can see the sorts of ideas that are on the artist's mind, but we see him letting them take him away on a flight of fancy: We don't see him exercising his control over the picture, tightening everything up, reigning things in.
Viewing this sheet, we can well imagine the delight that Griffith experienced, holding his brush very lightly and then pushing very hard on his graphite stick to make these marks. Our pleasure is in riding the soft currents of his experience—the lovely marks—to wherever they can take us in space, idea, mood, or season.