Memory and Perception
Art New England, Dec/Jan 2009
Aidron Duckworth Art Museum
August 2, 2008 - October 26, 2008
By Craig Stockwell
The Duckworth Museum is an interesting proposition, it’s a small museum located in the former studio (an old schoolhouse) of Duckworth. Here is a chance to immerse yourself in the world of an artist; it makes for an interesting afternoon. And who and what will you find there? When Duckworth died, in 2001 – at the age of 80, his partner was faced with the question of what to do with a lifetime’s work by an accomplished British/American modernist. The foundation and museum were the solution. There are two galleries that feature Duckworth’s work on a rotating schedule, and one small gallery that features guest artists. There is also the former living area of the studio that maintains books, paintings, drawings, and a sense of a recent lived past. Duckworth’s “voice” is difficult to listen to at present. His work is thoroughly modernist in its idealism, its quest for profundity, and its obsessive attention to the muscular striving for understanding. The current exhibit, Memory and Perception, includes work from the late 70s and early 80s. Clearly, this was a time of emotional turmoil for the artist and Duckworth turned his painting and drawing to looking deeply into the human feelings that surrounded him. He has done something quite amazing here, in the paintings and drawings he has used the human figure obsessively and he has managed to completely conflate the figure ground relationship. He has created a figure – field. Abstract Expressionism sought a full and even field but abandoned (or struggled with) the figure. Duckwoth manages to pull it off. The entire surfaces of these works are covered with partial figures, faces, limbs, fingers, lips, breasts, buttocks, feet. There is a total merger and what results is a loss of orientation, a submergence of self and an emergence of an erotic present. “Triptych 3,” from 1979-80, is the most accomplished version of this effort. And, curiously, what this modernist has accomplished is a very postmodern undertakingÉpainting as becoming and painting in the horizontal field.
Also in the gallery are formless yet figurative sculptures, about head-sized, made of concrete and plaster. These have a rich and disturbing presence created with by only a very few orifices and suggestions of life.
In the guest gallery are paintings by Laura Finn; “Tender Moments” is a small abstract painting that has a raw presence. Outside of the Museum are sculptures and the striking, large black-wood figures of Ria Blass stand out.