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Monday, July 13, 2009

Saturday Night: Until the Whistle Blows @ Shooting Gallery

Posted By on Mon, Jul 13, 2009 at 8:00 AM

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"Until the Whistle Blows" featuring Paul Chatem and Mike Maxwell
Shooting Gallery
July 11, 2009

Review by Joshua "Creep" G.

The first time I saw the artwork of Paul Chatem was at the Shooting Gallery in 2007 - it was at that very same show that I learned of Mike Maxwell's art as well. Since then I have been a huge fan of Chatem's paintings, hunting down imagery of his shows online and doing my darndest to catch them in person. This is the third time Paul's art has been at the Shooting Gallery and the second time he's shown alongside Mike Maxwell, so it didn't take much to get me to abandon my studies and check out these two amazing artists at a gallery that is always a pleasure to visit.

The art for the show was available for viewing online the night before, but I think it's best to see art in person and given the nature of the paintings in this show, it was necessary to see them in order to get the whole experience. We are accustomed to keeping our paws off the art we see in galleries, no matter how much we may want to handle them, but these new paintings by Chatem are designed so that the viewer must interact with them to get the fullest effect. It's a very odd experience and one could see the apprehension that most patrons in the gallery had. It took them a moment to feel comfortable touching the art, but once they gave it a try you could see the excitement each person felt at being a part of art that was not only amazing to look at, but needed one to be an active participant as well.

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The right wall of the gallery was completely taken up by Chatem, and the opposite wall was devoted to Mike Maxwell. Both artists had enough work to make the show look very balanced. The first thing one noticed was that Maxwell had painted each one of the walls to go along with his paintings. And even though Chatem had not done this, each portion of the wall was filled with the most intricate, unique works I have witnessed at any gallery show.

You could see by looking at one painting that there were gears and areas of the paintings that looked as though they were attached, but the idea that these pieces all moved and were necessary for the full mechanism to work was a little hard to grasp at first. I talked to Paul and he said he was reading books on clock-making in order to get the paintings to work in the way that he wanted to. I was already hooked on the style that Paul has, but then to learn that he learned a new craft just to apply to it his current craft was very impressive. Not one part of these paintings were made by an outside source. I have seen many artists have parts of their artwork made by another party, only to finish them up and get them in a show. Paul created every little piece of these paintings, all the way down to the metal additions, which were rusted by hand along with all of the aging techniques applied to each painting.

I was able to get a video of the artworks being interacted with, you can see how they work here: Paul Chatem Video.

The clock at the top of the major pieces also had clocks installed that worked as well.

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Along with the mechanical pieces, there were some "normal" paintings as well. Each one of them had rusted metal corners to help finish off the overall feel. Much like the other shows I have seen of Paul's art, all of the works of art tie in together with a major theme. He told me that he was influenced by comics books and you can see this in his shows. Each of the paintings is really just a piece in a larger story. For this show he said he was inpsired by the Industrial Revolution, the idea of working hard and older ways of doing things. Once again the idea that Paul made the artworks move and had to learn a craft that could be considered a fading way of doing things was another detail that made this show so powerful.
On the opposite wall Mike Maxwell's art fit perfect with what Paul had created. This is quite possibly why they have shown together a few times now. Just like with Paul's art, Mike has aged each one of his paintings, but it is mostly done during the painting process. The paintings all have a texture that intertwines with the portraits, giving them a ghostly feel but also fitting in so perfectly.

We talked about about his collection of vintage photos and how they inspire his work. Older photos have a quality about them that is lost in the current methods of photography, whether it is in the the faces themselves or the fact that each sitter had to hold perfectly still for an extended period of time, this idea is the starting point for what will later become one of Mike's paintings. I also liked how Mike has learned to stretch the use of his paint, so that his style has been advanced by he techniques he has learned to save paint. He uses no harmful paints, such as Cadmiums, Cobalts and so on, and builds all of the panels himself.
My expectations for this show were high, from what I had seen at the first duo show these artists were in, and the work that they have been making during the past two years I have to say that I walked away from this show very happy. It's one of those exhibitions that you will tell friends about - the unique quality of the work as well as the interactivity that it holds is something seldom seen in this art scene. It's clear that both of these artists are not only able to draw and paint very well, but are also inclined to push their work even further. Not just giving the fans yet another set of paintings that look strikingly similar to the last show satisfying collectors that may have missed out, but to give us a whole new set of images that stay with you and fades very little due to the fact that you were a part of the art shown in this gallery. So head on over to the show, interact, but make sure you are careful and hopefully more artists will see how important it is to not only involve our eyes but our sense of touch as well.

Critic's Notebook

Personal Bias: I was already a huge fan of both of these artists if you couldn't tell.

Random Detail: Paul plays stand-up bass for Avery James and the Hillandales.

By the Way:
Check out the Creep Machine website for more photos of the show:

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Josh Creep


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