"Artist's View Makes Show Well Worth Trip"
Yes, it's a long climb up the Pacific Grove Art Center's green-carpeted stairs to Barry Masteller's exhibition of "Fantasy and Surrealist Humor" in the center's main gallery. But the panoramic view which this young Pacific Grove Artist offers in words and paint more than justifies the climb.
The continually-productive Masteller has compiled for this exhibition three large (7x10-foot) paintings, some smaller easel-sized works, a quantity of narrative pen and ink drawings plus two wonderfully-imaginative box constructs.
The paintings, in general, depict objects out of context or else show an object in multifaceted view and serial sequence.
Objects out of context are particularly well-illustrated by "Dialectic Racers," a three-part canvas which includes among it's pedestrians walking on a sidewalk in the sky, one lady promenading with a fish instead of a dog on the end of a leash.
Masteller's three small canvases, which present the development of a visual concept in serial sequence, are consequently more imaginative and more illustrative of the humor implied by his exhibit's title. It would take some doing for instance, to best the philosophy underlying the serial painting of a piano and violin which start out as two solid units, then crack with the breaking of the violin's strings, next split into noticeable pieces and finally fly off as fragments into space. As one studies this painting's four parts, literally labeled I, II, III, IV, one gradually absorbs the fact that Masteller's shattering violin is a visualization of sound and time.
Furthermore, when one reads the title of his work one realizes that Masteller is communicating something beyond time and space. Ergo: "That which was once part of the part is now part of the whole." In short, Masteller's humor approximates Chaplinesque depths and falls into that sort of wit which touches upon the fundimentals of life and purpose.
Nothing demonstrates this better than his untitled drawings, executed in naive, cartoon-manner and filled with thoughtful hand-lettered narratives. One drawing of two men quietly conversing proffers such pithy statements as "art is life" and " life is art."
It requires little effort to detect that a good proportion of Masteller's drawings are autobiographical, particularly the sketch of a man crouched beneath a table.
Also undoubtedly autobiographical are the two beautifully fabricated box constructions. But the iconography of the pristine white box titled "Coming Through the Fog" emits in addition, a universal emotion. When a person lifts the lid of the box and peers inside, he is rewarded with the wonderful image of a ship's prow breaking through the box's fogbound side and preparatory to gliding down a black highway painted across the base of the box's interior.
One can't help but react to the box's symbolic ship and highway and how they apply to decision-making or inspirational times in any human being's life. A wall label in this exhibit outlines Masteller's Los Angeles origins, his schooling accomplishments. The label also includes the statement that "painting (for him) is not just simply the creation of a nice picture." Rather, "a painting should contain the essence of space and time; an adventure of forms and colors" which communicate "a story of tragedy and joy, humor or death, spiritual exercise or mystery."
That's it, right in a nutshell and proof that Barry Masteller has a lot to say, enough to recommend a climb up the Pacific Grove Art Center's stairs to the top of the mountain exemplified by his current exhibition.
Irene Lagorio, Art Critic, Monterey Herald 1976
All text and images contained on this site copyright: Barry Masteller 2012