Art Commentary: Digital Photography Invades Painting

It was bound to happen: Digital photography has invaded the realm of painting. Literally. Case in point: Andrew Hart Adler and Carolyn Beegan’s collaboration which combines two separate art forms thus creating an aesthetic synthesis. Here is proof again that diverse media/techniques can exist in tandem, just as they have in the past (like mixing drawing and painting, to cite an obvious example).

However, combining digital photography and painting seems to be a more complicated process than usual. Moreover, how important is it to distinguish between the two media when we look at the work? Or is the idea that the media are symbiotically attached to each other the real point? This critic can’t begin to answer those questions because it doesn’t really matter in Adler and Beegan’s pieces. Why? Their images are so arresting and provocative, we don’t ponder the techniques used. [expand]

The evolution of these images is equally stimulating, particularly in Beegan’s case. We remember her early works where block-like forms were more prevalent, along with her figures. Her present pieces are somewhat different in their graceful, non-geometric shapes. Yet there’s a sense of texture and layering that’s akin to her previous endeavors. Also similar are her classical figures, like “The Disappointed Madonna,” which is not in the Kalaher exhibit. Beegan has always had a penchant for physicality and surrealistic imagery as well, recalling her past works featuring “Red Socks” and three dresses hanging in space (“The Three Graces”). Her current “The Three Graces” is ambiguous, too, with two nude females extending their arms upward.

Adler’s influence from his previous works is less noticeable, although his adherence to musical structure has continued in the ebb and flow of the present shapes. His superimpositions also evoke “layer upon layer that give glimpses of different cultures” which are seen in his current creations.

Such superimpositions convey the surreal quality of Adler and Beegan’s work because we cannot exactly define what the images are or their relationship to each other. (Images of coupling are definitive, however.) Abstract configurations also seem beautiful and grotesque simultaneously. Animals, like the zebra in “Rhythms of the Veidt,” are fragmented, evoking Surrealism as well.

Yet we get the idea of nature in all its wholeness, complexities, glories and perhaps dangers. Like Beegan’s work during the mid 1990s featuring radishes, for example, nature is vital and life-enforcing. And intensely engaging.

Despite the distortion of some aspects of nature, both Adler and Beegan have done their homework, diligently studying their subjects, often on location, and clearly defining particular elements, including bones, horns and skin. It’s almost as if they have developed a scientific journal, but one predicated on imagination and creativity.

Adler and Beegan’s exhibit will be on view at Southampton’s Arthur Kalaher’s Fine Art until December 17. (28E Jobs Lane, 631-204-0383 ).


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