May, 1993 
Vol. 20, No.9

Dan Addington
Gwenda Jay Gallery
Chicago, IL

by Kristen Brooke Schleifer

For the past two years, Dan Addington's paintings have somewhat hesitantly straddled the line between representation and object-hood. In his first solo gallery show in Chicago, his previous experiments with content and process came into impressive focus. By narrowing his consideration of the figure from full body to fragment - in this case, the hand - and wielding greater control over his seductive materials, Addington has scaled new heights of expressiveness, offering a series of luminous and haunting meditations on mortality.

Addington is clearly grappling with the nature of  suffering, death, and acceptance in a poignant attempt to find some kind of understanding and grace. These paintings struck a profoundly religious chord, drawing on a range of influences- Catholic altarpieces, Mexican retablos, the works of Rembrandt and Rosetti. The hands, poised in gestures of mourning, agony, devotion, and transformation, are infused with an ecstatic glow, as if to mark the corporeal intersection of the temporal and the divine. Painted in oil glazes on copper, each is mounted on a bevel-edged wood square that is coated with tar, wax, and in some cases, lace, creating a rich sensuous frame that nourishes and encapsulates the image like amniotic fluid. In works such as St. Sebastion and Memorium (Red Spots) (pictured left), the wax is stained and textured to suggest mortified flesh; in Heal/Conceal, painted lace parallels the fragile barrier of the skin while echoing the bandage that wraps a stigmatized palm. Through this contextualizing method, Addington explores the parasitical symbiosis of flesh and spirit, in which transcendence is often bought at extreme physical cost.

Addington's latest formal developments push his work further into three dimensions. As self-contained and undeniably beautiful objects, they are imbued by their evocative materials, labor-intensive production, and art-historical referents with a precious aura not unlike that of a religious icon, revered masterpiece, or treasured artifact. Exhibited together, however, they become beads in a conceptual rosary. Addington successfully borrows from the lessons of Minimalism, using uniform scale, geometry, and repetitive imagery to create a powerful manipulation of mood, transforming exhibition into installation.

If the "hands" series revealed Addington at new levels of aesthetic and thematic control, a wall of tiny, brand-new works, collectively titled "Relics (Study Series)", provided intriguing endnotes to this visual treatise. Addington seems liberated by the miniature format to indulge in more spontaneous image-making, creating multivalent, sometimes surreal collages. Adding found images-mostly anatomical illustrations-to his repertoire of materials, he creates complex and eloquent notations on the relationships between science, nature, body, and spirit. Like journal entries or sketches, the "Relics" document an artist's evolving quest, offering both a sense of emotional closure and the promise of creative possibilities.

"Memorium", 1992 oil, wax, copper, wood. 21 x 21

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