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Art review: Dan McCleary at Craig Krull Gallery

March 17, 2011 |  3:30 pm

Dan McCleary panel-discussion 2011

"Panel Discussion," a monumental new painting by Dan McCleary that is the centerpiece of his show at Craig Krull Gallery, takes its title two ways. The silent reverberation between them dazzles.

On one hand, the painting depicts a familiar academic or business event, when a group of specialists gathers in a formal setting before a curious audience to hash out aspects of a complex subject. Behind a long table covered in a pristine white cloth, McCleary sets two young men on each side of an androgynous young woman, who is apparently the panel discussion's moderator. The five panelists are precisely captured in moments of focused preparation.

At the left, a man with pencil poised on paper looks up, lost in thought. Next to him a second man turns away from his open laptop computer, as if in anticipation of the discussion's imminent commencement.

Then comes the moderator, who seems to be concentrating on her thoughts. To the right, a man reviews a document inside a manila folder. And next to him, at the right end of the table, the final panelist scowls slightly as a man standing behind him fumbles with what appears to be a lavalier microphone attached to his lapel.

McCleary's detailed powers of observation are impressive but not flashy. A general simplification of form keeps the scene from distracting fussiness, so that a clarity of vision prevails. The painting's palette is heavy on neutrals -- especially a range of whites and grays -- which lends a quiet gravity to an otherwise mundane scene.

McCleary Javier Carillo The neutrals also make McCleary's flashes of color even more intensely absorbing than they otherwise might be. Those bits of color consecrate the most commonplace elements: the crimson stripe of a plastic coffee stirrer, the yellow-gold speck of an earring, the deep purple line of shadow running beneath the edge of a pink lid on a pastry box, the multicolored reflections in a silver water pitcher and more.

In fact, the colored shadows cast by Styrofoam coffee cups, the manila folder, shirt collars and such are among the painting's loveliest passages. Quiet descendants of more vibrant techniques employed by Pop painters such as David Hockney, Audrey Flack or Wayne Thiebaud, they unfold slowly as one scans the 13½-foot-wide, 6½-foot-high painting. Gentle rainbows bloom, not unlike the small bunches of  flowers in a pair of white vases that add spare table ornamentation.

The painting's composition obviously derives from Renaissance frescoes that depict the Last Supper. Piero della Francesca has been one inspiration for McCleary's past work, but "Panel Discussion" owes a lot to Andrea del Sarto's early-16th century version of Jesus' final meal, in which the mystery of the Eucharist was presented to his disciples and which Andrea painted on the refectory wall of a monastery and convent in Florence.

McCleary's subject is secular, not religious, not least because a woman occupies the central position. (It's tempting to wonder whether the small gold pendant on a chain around her neck alludes to a religious medallion.) McCleary has carefully isolated each individual in the composition, mostly framing them through simple architectural means. But the communion getting underway in "Panel Discussion" is nonetheless spiritual, with fellowship and human intercourse anointed by the picture.

Renaissance Last Suppers were painted for dining halls in order to reflect the common activity underway in both the picture and the room, strengthening the bond between them; something similar is at work in McCleary's art. Here, the "Panel Discussion" reflects the activity in the gallery, as a viewer engages in consideration of the painted "panel" laid out before him.

The lips of all six figures in the picture are sealed, but the painting and its audience certainly speak to one another. The art experience is ordained.

The show also includes six oil and six pencil studies for "Panel Discussion," and they handsomely articulate McCleary's working method. Five exquisite floral studies -- three oils and two etchings -- of modest size but bold appeal further amplify his outsized gifts.

Craig Krull Gallery, Bergamot Station, 2525 Michigan Ave., Santa Monica, (310) 828-6410, through April 2. Closed Sunday and Monday. www.craigkrullgallery.com


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Art review: 'Thomas Gainsborough and the Modern Woman' at the San Diego Museum of Art


-- Christopher Knight


Photos: Dan McCleary, "Panel Discussion," 2011, oil on canvas; "Javier Carrillo," pencil on paper, 2010. Credit: Craig Krull Gallery

Comments () | Archives (10)

the art wold changed and I missed it. How exciting. A review of art done with some skill. I'm floored. Bravo times are a changin' congrats Mr. Kinight.

The art world changed? Not exactly. Dan McCleary has been showing at L.A. galleries (and elsewhere) for nearly 30 years.

Here is a Times review of his last show (in 2009), plus a Times feature (from a decade ago) on his working method :



OK CK, but can you admit his kind of art is in the minority when it comes to LA Times coverage?

Since when have you started deleting and censoring criticism of your criticism after posting? It was legit,and no bad language, its time you learned some art relevance skills.

McCleary might have used less warmth and color and showed less movement in this painting because he wants viewers to focus on a frieze-frame and see some basic details about each person on the panel. Each figure is preparing in some way for the discussion. From left to right, one man writes down notes and thoughts; one turns his head in the direction of the moderator, fully showing his ear, ready to listen; the moderator thinks and collects her thoughts; another man prepares by reading and researching; and the man on the right receives an amplifier for his voice. This frowning man gives ne the impression that he’ll be the first to speak, even though he’s the least prepared for the discussion. He seems to have arrived late, the box of pastries where his laptop should be, had he arrived sooner to “break bread” with the others. Or maybe he’s annoyed because she got picked to be moderator while he had to pick up the donuts. Either way, the cranky guy is the one whose voice is amplified. (Sound familiar, DF?)

What makes the moderator androgynous? Short boyish hair? Unisex clothes that hide her figure? What do you see in the moderator that makes you sure it’s a young woman any more than you can be sure the pink box is a pastry box and not a Pandora’s box brought to the table? Something about the moderator is strong and feminine in the way she folds her hands delicately and carries herself confidently. Or maybe it’s the “lavaliere” around her neck. (I had to look that one up. Good one, CK.)

Thats the problem with academics and contempt art,it can only handle one idea at a time. Thats "smart and clever" but far from intelligent. Genius is about seeing connections between supposedly unrelated things. There are no relationships here,that which gives energy and life both spiritually and physically. They are cadavers propped up for display,all about appearances once again.

art collegia delenda est
You need to get out of the white cube more, that is the only place such a drab and lifeless thing can look semi interesting. Put it in real life,and poof. Nothing.
I have painted larger in less than one year while working a full time job,and way better 7'x17' though evolved synthetic cubism. And it holds up in any setting, context helps but reliance on such is for mental,physical,and emotional midgets.
Take it outside and see how it holds up to real life. I wont. It is dead. Inert. Souless. Back to the drwaing board, literally.

I guess not.

reminds me of The Last Supper

No, it's more of a "Last Breakfast." This painting and DF’s criticism remind me of Robert Browning’s poem “Andrea del Sarto.” There are some lines in the poem where the artist says:

I, painting from myself and to myself,
Know what I do, am unmoved by men’s blame
Or their praise either….

Ah, but a man’s reach should exceed his grasp,
Or what’s a heaven for? All is silver-gray
Placid and perfect with my art: the worse!
I know both what I want and what might gain,
And yet how profitless to know, to sigh
“Had I been two, another and myself,
Our head would have o’erlooked the world!”…

In this world, who can do a thing, will not;
And who would do it, cannot, I perceive:
Yet the will’s somewhat—somewhat, too, the power—
And thus we half-men struggle…

You want to fight about it, DF? Let’s take it outside. Literally.

Exactly. Take it our into the real world, away from the sterile white cube, and what do you have? Leave the self imposed gilded ghetto of the artscene and what do you have?
Does it live, is it of mind, body and soul? Or is it withered, for those weak of heart, stunted of soul, and feeble of body?
Time will tell, only the strong survive.

art collegia delenda est


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