The term, “OUT OF ORDER,” is a great title for an exhibition. It implies something ain’t working, as in, a non-functioning parking meter, or four veteran artists thrown together by chance. But, I’m giving the phrase more credit; its British use means cheeky or rudeness, which might be more apt. Example: “You are out of order, son, calling me an SOB.” Given the state of Chestnut Hill, the sign in the window might well say FOR RENT. One thing is for sure, whatever the thinking or circumstances for this strange grouping, headlining Chuck Connelly, this guy can paint. Why he is showing in this space with a few buddies? It seems to have elements of an anti-art world manifesto and a nod to a fallen fellow Stuckist. Surely a solo show would have suited the small Chestnut Hill Gallery. Perhaps it was fate. In any case, the gallery needs to learn not to cram the space and should never label the paintings with Helevetica numbers, 3 inches high cramping the work. It detracts in a major way. So does offering framing services! Jeesh. Though, Chestnut Hill deserves cudos for trying – and showing obscure, back-lit images of sea monkeys (by artist Ted Victoria; the others are Harry Anderson and Hal Hirshorn) swimming across the shop front at night – Connelly is simply too big a character for the space. Blue-Chippish, Locks Gallery should give him another try and a second act.
Connelly is a die-hard neo-expressionist of the 1980s variety and though out of fashion, there is timelessness to the work. When he paints, he means it. That is not to say that ‘meaning’ is any guarantee of success. Unfortunately, neo-expressionism and so-called “New Image” painting was dealt a death knoll by the recession of 88-89. This put a lot of Germans (and myself) out of work; they went into hedge funds. Even wunderkind Julian Schnabel ended up making films instead of painting and throwing crockery. Such is fashion. Neo-Conceptual was to follow, though it was called Neo-Geo at the time. Jeff Koons et al.
Infamous for the 2009 documentary about his fall from grace, “The Art of Failure,” Connelly is painted in an unfortunate light, inebriated and cursing the powers that be. Fine with me. Buzz around the show certainly makes use of these media markers. Any publicity is good though, right? Also well known is the inclusion of Connolly’s paintings in Scorsese’s portion of the film, New York Stories (1989) where Nick Nolte plays a bearish, difficult to deal with painter. Aren’t Artists supposed to raise hell? Check out English painter, Alec Guinness in The Horse’s Mouth.
Connelly’s new pictures themselves are small jewels, hot off the production line and with no less punch or immediacy than his earlier work. The old toy collection was out of my price range but I’ll be glad to trade for it at a later date. My other favorite was his Guston-like image of an unwieldy computer. I sense a Fellow-Luddite when it comes to technology. Gadgets steal the limelight and the artist’s muse, which ideally should be poetic stuff like beauty, angst and anger rather than price points. I look forward to this painter’s late development (in our fair city) in the face of forced outsidership. His long term success will be the true measure of honest-to-goodness talent and determination.