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Art review: Tom Knechtel at Marc Selwyn Fine Art

December 15, 2011 |  8:00 pm

Tom Knechtel, "The Cistern"
The nooks and crannies of a healthy consciousness take center stage in the 11 drawings and three paintings Tom Knechtel has made over the last four years. At Marc Selwyn Fine Art, the L.A. artist’s fanciful pictures of swarthy wrestlers, muscular dancers and beasts of the field inspire the human imagination to do what it does best: entertain fantasies unencumbered by the constraints of civil society.

That’s not to say that Knechtel’s brilliantly articulated images of libraries, theaters, carousels, stables, cisterns and circus tents are barbaric or in any way untoward. In fact, they’re among the most civilized works out there. Wickedly sophisticated, graciously welcoming and up to the challenge of anything anyone might bring to them, these urbane celebrations of exquisitely literary pleasures are both tough and toTuching, endearingly sweet and rigorously unsentimental about it.

In Romanticism’s heyday, back in the 18th century, poets and painters sought to expand human consciousness and identity by making members of their audiences sympathize, deeply, with beasts and people whose sentiments and experiences were generally looked down upon.  

Knechtel’s deliciously detailed and powerfully expansive pictures build on Romanticism’s dreamy achievements. Treating beasts and people as equally sentient creatures, they show us all to be capable of great sensitivity and vulnerable to heartbreaking suffering — part of an ongoing drama that is comic and tragic and intensely moving.

-- David Pagel

Marc Selwyn Fine Art, 6222 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 101, (323) 933-9911, through Jan. 28. Closed Sundays and Mondays.

 Image: Tom Knechtel, "The Cistern," 2008. Credit: From Marc Selwyn Fine Art