Catlin Rockman

April 9 - May 15, 2004

Boston Globe review of Catlin Rockman

 

Catlin Rockman creates large, intricate canvases that describe a synthetic world of strangely sensuous creatures. The artist hand-paints the erroneous artifacts of digital image manipulation: over magnified pixilation, super saturated color and stair-step gradations between tones to explore the cross-pollination of painting, computer graphics and digital photographic media.

 

Catlin Rockman Power #1 acrylic on canvas, (2001-2002) 50 x 72 inches

Rockman positions herself to use both the process and the sources of her work to continue her investigation of gender within a larger consumer culture. Catlin's use of small female warrior action figures, the sources of these paintings, are a far cry from David Levinthal's XXX series of Polaroid's of similarly scaled erotic figurines which are photographed to look like "real" strippers. Rockman exaggerates the alien quality of these figures and uses distortion and saturation to create an environment that crackles with an electric intensity.

Detail of Power #1

To actually paint "pixels" over a 4 x 6 foot canvas surface takes months and months. Thousands of rectilinear areas are tightly rendered in multiple coats of thin paint and set off against boundaries of soft, fuzzy air brush to produce the signature marks of a computer painting program. The resulting detail is exotic, transforming a close up view into a vast, map-like reading of transmutable shapes that vacillate between references to geopolitical borders and cubist buildings stacked one upon the other. The edges glow and recede - pushing and pulling on the surface to create figure /ground relationships that stitch the image to the background in unexpected ways. A few steps back from the canvas, these areas coalesce into the body of a sci-fi heroine which dominates the composition.

Catlin Rockman, oil on panel (from series of smaller "Untitled" works) (14 x 12 inches) 2004

The animated "Super Hero" feeling of the color, scale and posture of these oversized characters creates a dominant relationship to the viewer which is tempered or even contradicted by its sexuality. It is this tension between power and vulnerability that drives the work home. Rockman makes big, scantily clad female creatures that are threatening (and sexy?) enough to elicit all of the Amazonian Goddess, "Xena, Warrior Princess" or "Lara Croft - Tomb Raider" stereotypes imaginable. This ominous figure is usually entering our space and engaging us head on. We must choose between fight or flight or flirt; a decision that is complicated by a complexity that inhibits our ability to comprehend all of what we see. ­ James Hull, Curator


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