Saturday, March 30, 2013

Michael Van Zeyl at Gallery 180

Michael Van Zeyl at Gallery 180, through May 2

Morbidity is stalking the Classical Realism of our time with figures as perfectly life-like as they are lifeless. But Michael Van Zeyl has a much lighter touch His settings resemble hotel banquet rooms – well appointed with fruit, flowers, crockery, and furniture but far removed from palatial elegance. And the attractive young women he portrays seem healthy and lively, though not especially remarkable or profound. Something seems to be happening, but it’s their own private secret, and whether happy or sad, it will probably pass as quickly as a summer shower. The stage has been set for a comedy of manners.

This kind of painting is far removed from the Surrealism of the Chicago school, which is why it so badly needs to be shown here. The people and scenes depicted are just as contemporary. It’s just that the angst or quirkiness of the artist is not in your face. Instead, you feel skill, intelligence, balance, and wit behind the stage, making careful arrangements. Compared with the great masters, his painterliness comes up short, and is not strong enough in his still lifes to provoke a sense of wonder. But wherever figures are added, his painting becomes intriguing.