Hudson, New York
Local culture
18 August 2015 10:16AM
John Isaacs

Three young painters currently showing at Retrospective channel long-established masters of the medium.

Hudson artist Conor Backman has a thing about Gustave Caillebotte, a peripheral nineteenth century French painter largely eclipsed by his more formidable and energetic contemporaries in the Impressionist movement. While Caillebotte certainly lacked the luscious spontaneity of his friend Monet (whom, by the way, he supported for a while), he was an accomplished artist, as well as trained engineer, an enthusiastic horticulturist, and an accomplished sailor and boatbuilder. His observation and depiction of life in a rapidly modernizing France is actually as invaluable a historical resource as a body of fine art, and he endures as a fascinating if not illustrious figure. These strange strands are milked in Backman’s mixed-media reconstructions, which transpose Caillebotte’s eye for detail and optics to evoke the influence of Hudson’s past on the present, as Caillebotte did for Paris. Slightly but not objectionably contrived, the resulting assemblages form refined examples of melding old (as in oil paint) and new (as in digital) media.

It’s all oil paint in Russell Tyler’s slurpy agglomerations that are far from crude, even if they’re basically graffiti. Like his revered Philip Guston, Tyler squeezes every last pellet of pink, beige, and pale blue paint from the tube into oozingly sensuous canvases without the least pretension, glorious in their abandon. Tyler’s partner-in-crime, Trudy Benson, is no less iconcoclastic, though her penchant is for white on black. Keith Haring would have appreciated her sense of line, foreshadowed originally—I believe—in the imperfect but compelling late works of de Kooning. Benson has with tubes just as much, if not more fun, as Tyler. You get why these guys make a terrific couple.

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