"Barry Masteller's Paintings, Sculptural Works on Display"
Anyone compiling a list of the Monterey Peninsula's highly productive and intellectually committed artists will surely place Barry Masteller's name near the top of the column after seeing his new exhibition of 20 thoughtful paintings and three sculptural constructions at the site 311 Gallery in Pacific Grove.
The iconography definitely indicates awareness of pre-Christian art plus knowledge of Renaissance illusionism and the Tromp l'oeil paintings of John Fredrick Peto, William Harnett and other 19th century Americans.
Masteller's new paintings and constructions are not eclectic imitations. They signify his appreciation for both the art of ancient times and the vanguard attitudes of the 20th century modernists. His newest paintings and constructions are a synthesis of momentous moments in art history.
The wonder is that he arrived at an original mode of expression while making this synthesis. This prompts verbal dissection of his ultra painterly 3 x4-foot green-blue, yellow orange and red -orange canvas entitled ''Passage 11-84'' In this painting, there is a trompe l'oeil representation of a narrow ledge stretched across the format's lower quarter section which encourages the viewer to see it as a narrow shelf projecting from the paintings surface.
Readers aquatinted with John Frederick Peto'o tromp l'oeil still life's of books and vases casually arranged on shelves might question the originality of a similar design motif in Masteller's ''Passage 11-84. There's a difference, however. The ledge in Masteller's canvas supports two totally flat and nonobjective triangles instead of books, also a flat red-orange circlet.
Since the circlet and very two dimensional triangles recall forms basic to Wassily Kandinsky's abstractions, Masteller's ''Passage 11-84'' ends up being a highly successful and extremely well painted combination of traditional illusionism and nonobjective modernism on one and the same format.
Other motifs within this painting are just as interesting because they allude to even earlier times when artists used chisels instead of brushes and incised the walls of temples and tombs with pictographs.
References in this direction are highlighted by the suggestion of a sharply chiseled incision in the canvases upper right corner.
Finally in the same canvas' green-blue background, we see both a pictorial and philosophical hint of the temporality of existence (or the passage of time) via a linear pattern signifying cracks in a weathered stone surface.
In addition to providing the iconographical key to all the paintings in this show of art by an inventive practitioner. ''Passage 11-84'' draws attention to the red-orange, yellow orange and green-blue palette unifying his exhibition. Equally enlightening is his painterly application of these tertiary colors to the wood, canvas and paper surfaces - so different from the piles-of-pigment style currently in vogue among today's neo-expressionists.
To appreciate Masteller's brand of painterliness, one should see how he put cool blues to work modulating the triangular hot yellow-orange fulcrum in his construction entitled "Balance."
Also instructive is the yellow and earth-ochre underpainting in the same construction's red areas and the faint violet brush strokes warming the blue platform unit.
Some attention should be expected on the ten small 6x8-inch and predominantly green-blue paintings named "Ryan Series I-X" where various line patterns illustrate the many ways a two-dimensional format may be divided into units of space.
Masteller's exhibition in Site 311 Gallery is extremely well-painted and a great display of craft. His newest and latest endeavors show an intellectual, philosophical and conceptual depth that surpasses the work of previous shows.
Irene Lagorio, Art Critic Monterey Herald 1985
All text and images contained on this site copyright: Barry Masteller 2012