Gallery Review: “Southpaw” by Glenn Downing

The Fort Worth Community Arts Center has always focused on the local artistic community bringing in artists from around the area to showcase their new contemporary work. Glenn Downing was chosen to do an exhibit, Southpaw, in one of their focus galleries from January 8 to February 9, 2010. This show includes several of his larger than life drawings and one of his massive sculptures. Overall, Downing’s work is visually stimulating, almost to the point of over stimulation. At first glance, his work resembles what one might find in any grade school art class but after a closer examination deeper meaning is revealed through the use of color, line, and composition.

Born and raised in Waco, Texas, Glenn Downing’s work is far from what one would expect from someone who grew up in rural Texas. Downing grew up on a farm and helped his father run the family paving business, where he met individuals that would influence his work for the rest of his life. Like any other young person out there, Downing decided to leave home and spent time traveling around the world during the first part of his artistic career. As his career progressed however, Downing continually found himself being drawn back to Waco through his artistic influences and family ties.  The time Downing spent doing manual labor and meeting individuals, who he noted were “a little bit crazy [but] they approached life on their own terms”, were the most influential on his work and his work ethic shown throughout the images exhibited in Southpaw. The emotions expressed by him and anyone else around him are what he desired to capture in his own drawings, noting that “I am interested in creating a collage of life with memorable imagery evoking a range of emotions… High ideals are expressed in crude lines and found objects, like wise crudeness is expressed in fine inks and pastels.” This concept is also reflected throughout Southpaw.

Each drawing in the Southpaw exhibit has a life of it’s own. While at the same time, each image represents Downing’s artistic devotion to capturing emotion. Chaotic in nature, lines move across the paper without any recognition of or concern for one another. These force the eye to look at the image as a whole and also forces the viewer to notice nuances of each drawing. Lines in his drawings also have a sculptural sense to them because they are strong and rigid and create forms that are reminiscent of large sculpture. This sense of sculpture is something Downing enjoys about the artistic process, citing that he used “materials in a very direct way and [didn’t] try to cover up [his] construction methods. [Downing] want[ed] these pieces to be raw and emotional and profane; throw in everything and the kitchen sink.  Fragments heaped upon fragments become an image.” Downing’s use of vibrant colors adds to the movement and appeals to certain emotions. Through the chaos of line and color, crude forms morph into perspective at certain key locations of these drawings. Downing selectively uses color and line together to put perspective, although usually off, in his drawings. Overall, the drawings that are in the Southpaw exhibit are incredible vibrant pieces that are reminiscent of James Rosenquist and David Salle’s pastiche images; while at the same time, similar to Peter Saul’s paintings that distort reality and begin to raise moral questions and dilemma’s.


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