THIS ESSAY HAS BEEN PUBLISHED IN THE AUGUST 2016 ISSUE OF ACES MAGAZINE
Bryan Gutman is a fine artist from Patchogue, NY. In this series of work, reviewed here, Gutman creates immersive, multi-planed paintings that seamlessly integrate diverse visual images that are overlapped on top of one another and rendered in highly glossed enamels in conjunction with traditional oil paints. Since the early 1990s, Gutman has developed a personal iconography; incorporating images grounded in reality and imagined imagery stemming from the subconscious mind. Inspired by newspaper photographs, neon signage, and elements of the urban landscape, the artist layers his imagery into a singular mindscape that blurs reality with the fictive, through imposing lines that travel throughout multiple layers of vibrant colors.
Exemplary of Gutman’s style is Chris’s Dream, which blends together several different visual motifs into one composite scene. Encased in a border of repeating bands of blue, orange, and beige rectangles, the visual representation in the center of the composition appears to be that of a couple in the act of love making. The pair appears not grounded in reality, but is rather surrounded by a sea of green and pink polka dots and a multitude of pink-hued bands of white, arranged in a variety of forms that is resemble of neon signage. Within the yellow-orange silhouette of the female figure, one finds the contours of a seated man sitting amongst a rocky landscape with a shovel resting on his shoulder. This overlapping of the rural man within the silhouettes of the sensual couple offers a stunning juxtaposition between the communal and the intimate, the public and the private, of virtue and vice; the didactics of man. What is revealed upon close observation is often lost in the initial glimpse. Gutman’s mastery in fusing together his diverse subject matters through form and color allows him to hide details within his paintings, which are only revealed when one carefully digests each piece.
Likewise, the painting Highway Dreaming utilizes imagery that, on first observation, may be lost on the viewer. What is immediately recognizable, however, is the nude female figure that is situated just above the center of the composition. The figure is rendered in a deep dark blue with her contours marked in neon-purple sign-like delineations. She inhabits a shape reminiscent of a rearview mirror and, paired with the title of the painting and its relatively bare surrounds, which consists of a gradual transition of yellow-green to red-orange, one can adopt the perspective of a man that is lost in thought while travelling down a barren desert highway. Gutman’s paintings transport the viewer to another world, to one that flawlessly fuses fantasy with reality.
If one is well versed in art history, the subject matter of Gutman’s Olympia is easier to identify. The center of the composition features the reclining nude of Édouard Manet’s Olympia, reduced here to a series of black contour lines that outline the figure and the setting in which she is situated. The outer boundary of the painting, consisting of ambiguous abstracted forms rendered in varying degrees of cool blues and purples with hints of red and yellow, is inspired by the work of Parisian avant-garde artist, Jean DuBuffet. What may be overlooked on first observation is the silhouette of Vincent van Gogh as seen in his painting Self Portrait in a Straw Hat. The silhouette of van Gogh, which contains Manet’s Olympia, is only noticeable when the viewer disregards its nude inhabitant and the painting’s elaborate peripheries, opting instead to focus on the yellow coloring that fills the area of van Gogh’s portrait. Layering these works together, Gutman offers the viewer a timeline of artistic achievement spanning roughly 150 years, which highlights three pivotal art movements and three innovative artists.
Bryan Gutman is a fine artist who lives and works in Patchogue, NY. He received a BFA from the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque and a MFA from Brooklyn College in New York. He is the Owner and Co-Founder of Fee-Fi-Faux, Inc., a decorative painting, handmade tile and wallpaper business, alongside his wife Tina Folks. His artwork has been exhibited across Long Island at the Patchogue Arts Gallery, Heckscher Museum, East Ends Arts Council, and Guild Hall. Gutman is an active member of East Ends Arts and Patchogue Arts Council.
Photo of Bryan Gutman © Miranda Gatewood Photography
All images courtesy of the artist