Taking Notes, in Paint
Jimmy Miracle, a UCSB MFA graduate last year, shows impressive small paintings, elevating the everyday, at the Architectural Foundation Gallery.
Jimmy Miracle, “Color Notes”
When: through May 9
Where: Architectural Foundation of Santa Barbara, 229 E. Victoria St.
Gallery hours: 1 to 4 p.m., Saturday, and by appointment
Information: 965-6307, www.afsb.org
From the annals of MFA graduates from UCSB who go on to do interesting work in Santa Barbara, enter the enticing and fresh-minded artist known as Jimmy Miracle, whose exhibition “Color Notes,” at the Architectural Foundation Gallery, demands a look. When Mr. Miracle showed his work as part of the annual MFA exhibition last May (always a must-see show on the local art calendar), one of his contributions had a strong esprit de corps—a series of small portraits of his fellow MFA graduates, in the entrance gallery to the University’s AD&A Museum.
With his current, deceptively calm show “Color Notes,” he turns to a cohesive group of small paintings, presumably about “small” and mundane things but in fact doing his part to elevate the everyday. We see a parking lot with one lone van, as surrogate protagonist, a group of portraits of women without the identity-marking features of facial details, painted from memory, and landscapes/seascapes with a presence both impressionistically meditative and contextually challenging.
To hear the artist explain his aesthetic, in a statement, Mr. Miracle says that “I am after a kind of inept monumentality built from repetitious labor and craft in humble materials.” He also alludes to a mysterious process—also a mystery to him—by which he uses art to observe and acknowledge the world around him. That world, pre-UCSB, included stints in his native Ohio, New York City, London and Berlin.
Now: he is busily documenting and open-mindedly experiencing his home base of Goleta, California. He says he eagerly paints “views of my everyday world seeking neither the picturesque or unpicturesque but rather an experience of immediacy, active witness, and sensory awareness.”
In other words, the artist’s process involves seeing and seeking out the profundity and elements of surprise embedded in the commonplace sights we might take for granted. In the droll charmer “Van in Parking Lot,” the empty vessel vehicle assumes a lofty presence, and in “Two Crows,” tiny black birds which could be a footnote in the larger view of a field are well-noticed.
Stylistically, these paintings belong to the same sub-family, in a rough, soft at the core mode of realism, but variations are welcome here. He experiments with degrees of light and finish, muted palette and ambience of the pallid beach atmosphere of “Hazy Shore,” but amps up the color spectrum in another beachscape, “Blazing Rocks.” Here, he toys with our perception by tinting beach stones in surreal colors, a neo-Fauvist touch pumped up further in the painting “Balcony I.”
His quartet of female portraits feels tantamount to a variations-on-a-theme project, as he riffs off of an approach in which realism is in a carefully calibrated state of suspension. Their soft-focus, “faceless” faces are just one aspect of a general lean towards abstraction, with variations on spectral qualities adding to the distinctiveness of each painting.
“Stephanie Reading” finds its subject in a semi-voyeuristic point of view, peering out on Stephanie basking on a well-sunned patio. Standing subjects seem as much props in experimental portraiture as dedicated character studies. In particular, “Sunny Silhouette” lives up to its teasing title with a bleached-out visual effect, making the scene the antithesis of a shadowy silhouette: there is a sun-baked optical overload sensation at work.
Almost like a last, soft-spoken finale to a show of subtle mysteries and mundanities, the show “ends” with the smallest canvas in the room, “Seated Figure.” An enigmatic woman on the beach scene integrates the unfinished subject within a composition built on diagonals. The painting serves as a fine endpiece to “Color Notes,” in which Mr. Miracle works his magic somewhat slyly, embracing the everyday in non-everyday ways.