Richard Bulman

Rader Galleries, Bellingham
April 24 - May 30


Palace (1996),
watercolour

POSTMODERNISM is not a "style" but rather a retreat from or a denial of the formalist criticism and modernist thought which produced an increasingly reductivist approach to artmaking after World War II.

Bellingham artist Richard Bulman states he is not a postmodernist, that his style is more a variation on traditional Renaissance painting techniques: "I want to capture the feeling of that time to resurrect the style." These were roughly the sentiments of the British Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood in the mid-19th Century, who were convinced that contemporary academic painting had become decadent and debased -- that a reversion to a naturalistic "truth to nature" in painting and drawing would facilitate a return to an imagined golden age.

Thus Bulman not only rides the ground swell of realist art (every hair, every fold of fabric, every stone) but has travelled widely to appropriate the esthetic and architectural splendours of other eras. To an eclectic list of styles of ornament and pictorial décor, Bulman injects what appear to be friends and associates in diaphanous costumes or none at all - less Biblical than the Pre-Raphaelites, more credible than Maxfield Parrish, but figuratively oblivious to the groundwork laid down by contemporary realists such as Andrew Wyeth-to-Lucian Freud. Re-born classicism may turn out to be more elusive than abstractionism, as this exhibition is likely to emphasize, and it will require an entirely new critical vocabulary.

© Ted Lindberg