FRANZ KAFKA, ©1992, digital montage
AFFINITY TAPESTERY, ©2011, woven cotton, 75 x 55".
Alan Magee at George Krevsky Gallery, San Francisco, CA, 2015
by Joseph Goldyne
Alan Magee has been celebrated for thirty years as an artist whose painterly gifts John Canaday hailed as “not only astounding but an intensification of our experience of the world around us.” Yet though commonly appreciated as one of this country’s premier realist painters, his is an art of complex inspiration and conviction that has been expressed in multiple media. In fact, the word “realism” is more than inadequate to describe how Magee addresses his subjects.
In this first exhibition at the George Krevsky Gallery, the artist shows, also for the first time, heartfelt musings regarding the common yet remarkably serious predicaments that we must face in ourselves and in others. These are predicaments that most prominently manifest their otherwise quotidian presence in national and international politics - dark moments that cast destructive shadows on many individual lives as well as on our culture in general.
Canaday’s observation of thirty years ago that Magee’s particular talents “become indissolubly blended into a kind of philosophical statement” is perhaps more true today than it was then. Probing Alan Magee’s efforts for the “meaning of the work,” Barry Lopez put it most trenchantly when he stated: “if it does not elicit hope or a sense of the sacred, if it does not speak to our fear and confusion, or to the capacities for memory and passion that imbue us with our humanity, then the artist has only sent us a letter that requires no answer.”
Though Magee lives in Maine, his tapestries treating these themes, the largest works included at Krevsky, are the product of his collaboration with Donald Farnsworth at Magnolia Editions of Oakland, California. These are pioneering efforts in the remarkable potential of the digitally controlled loom.
Over the years, I have had many conversations with Alan Magee, and he has remained steadfast in his moral and ethical convictions. As our society has progressed and faltered, so has his art matured to deal with issues that seem far from the pure aesthetics that governed those works by which he made his reputation. While his still lives retain his sense of respect for the natural and manmade and, perhaps more significantly, his wonder at it all, this exhibition insists that there is much more to Magee’s efforts than that beauty of surface and form honored by much of his art.
Joseph R. Goldyne is an American artist, curator, and author. He is known for his monotype prints and drawing.