Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Man and Meaning: Dick Ranck, Painter and Sculptor

                                                                     Cave Work by Dick Ranck

There is a painting in this show that Dick began by looking at a photograph of the cave paintings in France. The beasts he eliminated, the wall is not discernable, the painting was then rotated to stand on end instead of in landscape orientation. There is what appears to be a golden figure before us, ¾ length, pointing to the left, the hand and lower arm not showing, in the direction of some atmospheric blue paint in the top left corner that we see over the shoulder. This blue mythic field also encompasses the area of the figure’s head, which is dreaming in a shroud of the world outside the cave to which it points, while also looking at us and looking around inside the cave. Myth and mythology are by this sign conjoined, and it is the ennoblement of man that the works of this show attempt to convey: The ennoblement of the riddle solver, who is himself a riddle. Socrates is this man’s first exponent.

In all these visions the task of man is explicitly made large. Wood sculptures emerge from the animate spirit their original yoke or crotch or bend or branching suggest. The modern is as primitively rooted as in ancient times, Ranck suggests. Both terror and tenderness take turns. The myth of fear is as real as the myth of courage. The suggestion in such work is that the real is indeed mythic in its very nature, and not able to be broken down into surface realisms, or the representation of banal exteriors.

There are test models for the Trojan Horse here and there, reminding us of vehicles our cars attempt to duplicate, complete with splitting wooden wheels, and a recalcitrant technology that nature undercuts. This is like the god in the machine, a thing long ago laughed off as a theatre device, but nowadays a more visible result of our courageous stories. Think Industry foiled by Global Warming; the car foiled by rust; the body aging from time’s use.

The work of Gauguin has to come up in looking at these, and you realize that Gauguin was intuiting abstraction in his own way. Dick Ranck paints with less distraction by an exotic region across the Pacific. His wilderness is the woods of Vermont and Maine, his abstraction the sky and what the mind plays out of it, or on it.

In this you have both light and air, some exaggeration of the Id’s wide wishes, the ego’s drive, the toys of children, and the embrace of love.

The generation of tattoos and Red Hot Chili Peppers that thrashed about to wild music during the Super bowl halftime show the evening of the opening are all coincident with these deeper meditations about our wild natures. If not civilization, then Liberty must stem from and be ordered by these ungovernable spirits.

John Sevcik

                     At Richard Rosenfeld Gallery
                              Throughout February 2014


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