There is a curious beauty to the art of John D. Monteith—his models overly made-up in unnatural eye shades, lacquered lips across bared or parted teeth, breasts just so perfectly presented whether freed or restrained with what you know must be silken sashes from kimonos that at first smell of sweet woodruff or bergamot but, ultimately, when the base notes kick in, smack of ambergris. It is this kind of intrigue and promise of intoxication that crooks a cherry finger toward the viewer in Monteith’s new exhibit opening tonight at Tapp’s Arts Center as part of the city’s long-lasting First Thursday gallery crawl and celebration.
In Everyone Gets Atrophy, a provocative title that fits the exhibit only oddly, Monteith offers luscious and lustrous portraits of a half dozen or so models, going back over as many years, who appear burnished both in visage and presentation. Monteith accomplishes the effect—the sense of a fine skin on his paintings—via his use of oil on Dura-lar matte, a technique he uses almost exclusively now. “Its limits are its virtues,” the artist says of the technique, citing an appreciation for the resulting flatness and fluidity.
“These pieces are somewhat experimental,” Monteith says. “I like creating problems and solving them.” One problem that he recognizes, though not of his own creation, is how to create contemporary figurative work that can be provocative and reticent at the same time. How to find “infinite nuance within a finite set.”
Tonight’s opening suggests that he, in fact, knows the answer.
It is rare for Monteith to exhibit in Columbia, but a quick look at his recent exhibition history will find his work up and down the east coast. The artist is represented by Stephen Romano Gallery in Brooklyn. Joining him in the festivities tonight for their debut performance in the Skylight Room will be James Wallace and Rob Cherry as safe_space, “an ambient industrial synthesizer percussion duo” with local band Space Coke performing in the Tapp’s Park Courtyard.
Tapp’s is located at 1644 Main Street.
- Cindi Boiter