Richard Morhous: Paintings

Lisa Harris Gallery, Seattle
December 2, 1999 - December 30, 1999

Richard Morhous, DÈjeuner(1999)
Richard Morhous, DÈjeuner(1999),
acrylic on paper

Seattle painter Richard Morhous does strongly-patterned paintings in primary and secondary colors, layered and outlined with black paint, which are perhaps reminiscent (but deceptively so) of those produced by the German Expressionist painters known as the ìDie Br¸ckeî group, active early in this century. Morhousí forceful, upbeat and playful (but utterly resolved) style, utilizes some Expressionist elements, but is also couched in the same verve and ironic humour as the work of Philip Guston, who turned from Abstract Expressionism back to cartoon figures, or of Gaylen Hansen, who did the same. Drawing on interior and exterior scenes of everyday life, Morhous (probably rather quickly) blocks out primary shapes and surfaces in three-dimensional space, locking everything together with the mortar of black line. He has established immediately what the picture is about. For the most literal-minded: This is a room. This is a landscape. This is a still life. Right? With that out of the way, Morhous is ready to discuss and demonstrate the more important painterly matters such as colour, value, surface and texture: the enduring and most highly abstract and improvisational elements of any painting. Morhous exults in vivid colour which hardly exists as local colour in Seattle. Like the quickly drawn configuration which he has not copied precisely from nature, the colour is amplified in his imagination, pulled from his high-keyed palette. With what must be (to Morhous) comforting regularity, people buy and hang his paintings in their homes and offices. Before long, the paintings cease to exist as interiors, landscapes or still lifes. The abstract reading will have overwhelmed the merely pictorial.

© Ted Lindberg