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Art

In The Raw

Exploring The Kinetic, Charged World of Fool Period

STREAMING CONTENT: Mr. Period's "Death Seduces Innocence Once Again."

By Deborah McLeod | Posted 6/25/2008

His nom de plume is Fool Period. His show of exuberant, immediate, physical paintings at Sub Basement is Electric Raw. And Fool, who prefers to be encountered by his cryptic first name--though the suggestions inherent in his assumed surname perhaps offer other intricacies--abandoned his formal training at the Fashion Institute of Technology. He set off to bump into real life and express its spark and hum and ooze. Thus his lurid, passionate paintings are antithetical to high culture; anarchic toward established tastes and artistic disciplines. They are sort of exposes of false prophets and ventures into the unconventional, as is his name, which is presumably a reference to the Fool of the Tarot.

The works issue from pure childlike energy, the kind of genuine innocence that finds personal bodily experience to most honestly define the larger world. Nevertheless, most of these works consider temptation in its adult context, with all its trappings and traps.

Fool's paintings here follow several paths. Most are portraits; others are fractured, meditative mandala paintings, and others are impulsive vertical drip compositions. They loosely hold together as a group through Fool's phantasmagoric color and impetuous application of it. Whether he is squeezing that ubiquitous dimensional craft paint out of its tube or brushing pigment hastily across his imagery, he colors within and without the lines as much as he forgoes latent areas.

As plein air painting is to the landscape painter--as an artist tries to ensnare a passing moment of sunlight and shadow--these products of momentary emotional spontaneity are to Fool. The works all disclose the kind of rapid immediacy with which he makes them, before something important changes.

There's a modicum of art history that peeks out here and there in a couple of paintings, too. Maybe it's unintentional--hard to say. But "Death Seduces Innocence Once Again," with its two female figures in contraposition, united by a stream of water may recall Titian's "Sacred and Profane Love" though the women are reversed in Fool's scene. The harlot in red, her face half revealing her treachery and rot with her skull's vagina dentata mouth, is on the left. The dully modest, virginal girl is on the right. Their feet intermingle in the stream suggesting one of two possible options to anyone engaged in reading the painting. One is that the innocent protagonist's moral character will prove interchangeable and corruptible, which would be the logical outcome of a painting with this title. The other explanation for their feet meeting in the river suggests that dualism is a disingenuous argument, and that regardless of how the author of a narrative intended to expose some carnal offense through comparison, it is all of a piece and the author possibly knows it but prefers not to trade on that idea.

Titian is not the only old apparition though. A grittier Gustav Klimt, a more lusty Egon Schiele, and a less existential Edvard Munch ever so slightly haunt several of the portraits (and even a couple of the abstracts in the effects of decorative backdrop). All of these slightly disappointed romantics perhaps share a cup of mead for what they had truly hoped about Madonnas and what they got, or learned instead. "Vanessa Mae" is one of the works that particularly leans backward into this early 20th century Northern European aptitude.

Several of the portraits are quite eloquent at capturing some occupying emotion in a sitter's countenance. "Bridgett" is a sensitive study of apprehension, while Fool's "Rainscapes" do indeed evoke melancholia. He effectively captures what he is after in spite of the raw uneven friction he runs through something as pale and adrift as idealized sadness.

"Mindscape I-IV" is the series of mandalic shapes--puzzle-like automatic drawings that begin from a circle and doodle inward and outward from that source, to inspire similes from their viewers. "Mindscape I" is sort of like the Venus of Willendorf with an insect face; "Mindscape II" is rather like a cat face with phallic ears. With its upper archway of teeth, "Mindscape III" seems an open mouth, its cavern filled with chaotic energy, while "Mindscape IV" proposes total ambiguation.

In nearly every work, the artist leaves the graffiti of his own name in some prominent spot. This is something that grieves me, even though I know it's a characteristic element of what is often called outsider art. I believe this artist is too sophisticated for this stratagem, and that having fool brutally written in such hierarchical locations undermines the sensitivity of the work. Further he uses it as a gimmick, putting eyes in the two "oo"s and giving his name license to speak for his view of the work. If Fool essentially believes in the sincerity of his work and the genuine crux of raw passion or true emotion, he might think about placing this distracting graphic in a somewhat more discreet manner, like Alfred Hitchcock when he passes furtively through a scene. Otherwise it's so much noise where it needn't be.

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