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Review: Paintings reveal teacher-students dynamic at Craig Krull

March 28, 2013|By Christopher Knight, Los Angeles Times Art Critic
  • Emmanuel Galvez paints still lifes of pan dulce (sweet bread).
Emmanuel Galvez paints still lifes of pan dulce (sweet bread). (Craig Krull Gallery )

Dan McCleary is one of the finest figure painters working today. Since 2010 he has also directed Art Division, an after school arts program for young adults. Now he is showing with Javier Carrillo and Emmanuel Galvez, talented former students at Art Division. Their recent paintings begin with a stylistic clarity and precision familiar from their teacher's example, while wholly transforming his precedent in distinctive ways.

McCleary's three large genre paintings at Craig Krull depict simple scenes. A clerk at a convention's sign-in desk types information into a laptop as her colleague looks on. A young woman at a cafe looks up from her book, the oblivious man to her left staring into his laptop and the man on her right scanning across the picture. Finally, a manicurist carefully paints a fingernail while her client watches.

All are images that depict intense concentration combined with casual observation, at once reflecting and vivifying the way a viewer looks at paintings -- including these.

FULL COVERAGE: 2013 Spring arts preview

As always, McCleary adapts painting cues from Piero della Francesca and other monumental Italian Renaissance artists, skillfully blending them with unpretentious motifs from mass media. The result is cloaked inside daily observation.

Carrillo likewise spans the Italian 15th century to the New World present. His seven charmingly observed panel-paintings are based on Lotería (Lottery), a Renaissance-era game of chance that jumped the Atlantic and is now a Latin American staple.

Most are portraits. In flat, bright colors, he replaces the cast of characters on a standard set of lottery flash cards with individual figures of workers, a “coyote” smuggler, the Virgin of Guadalupe and, in a witty aside, a worried immigration officer that is in fact a likeness of McCleary. Carrillo elevates chance into life's guiding principle, including his own artistic development.

Galvez presents painting as a delectable social confection. His small, radiant still-life paintings lay out an array of pan dulce pastries -- conchas, chilindrinas, margarita cookies, etc., some partly eaten and others cut into pieces.

The familiar pastries are set low in atmospheric fields of monochromatic paint. Tiny dabs of creamy pigment double as scattered sugar sprinkles or crumbs, while thin blushes of color create luminous shadows.

Like Jean-Baptiste-Siméon Chardin, Galvez deploys the mute objects as if they were lush but humble surrogates for a diverse family of interactive characters.

Craig Krull Gallery, Bergamot Station, 2525 Michigan Ave., Santa Monica, (310) 828-6410, through April 13. Closed Sun. and Mon. www.craigkrullgallery.com

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