Brenden Clenaghen & David French

Pulliam Deffenbaugh, 228-6665

Through Sept 30

Brenden Clenaghen pops into his blue-chip gallery debut with Sugar/Skin, an exhibition of Minimalist and Pop inspired paintings. Clenaghen creates a selection of works that invite the viewer to consider skin (roughness, pigment, titillation) and candy (color, flavor, desire), and the psychological tension that lies in between. He attempts to translate through painting the dichotomy of sickness and sweetness of flesh, and at points he is successful.

Clenaghen utilizes the "modern fresco" material of joint compound to lay down a frosty white surface, then adds uniform hue through the use of process inks, acrylics, and dyes. Finally, Clenaghen includes a textural element, ranging between the very subtle--simple marks forming a pattern, to striking--small spheres fixed to the panel in a similarly uniform design.

Through these textural ploys he is able to produce panels that mimic skin or surfaces which project a colorful, candy-coated appeal. In "Shifty Pink," Clenaghen paints a field of beige patterned by small, black-ink circles; atop this, he brushes on a thin veil of milky compound, clouding the pigment and mark-making. The final element is the uniform placement of small, peach-colored balls.

The overall visual effect mimics Caucasian skin afflicted with goosebumps. There is an element of optical play; the largely two-dimensional surface seems to undulate and take on form. It is both creepy and repulsive, yet seductively, Clenaghen dares you to touch.

In a contrasting display in the second room, Seattle artist David French provides a set of wood carvings in varying size and shape that take on distinct personalities. Alive with an undeniable playfulness, the sculptures hold a resonance that can be described by a range of words: tribal, utilitarian, organic, mythical, and figurative. Through a marriage of masterful carving and surface attention, French arrives at objects that look weathered, almost antiquarian, but they maintain a pristine, gallery-ready quality.

Interestingly, most of the sculptures are wall-hung, blurring the traditional differences between sculpture and painting. Additionally, the range in size of the works and placement on the wall provides an installation type of viewing experience. The objects work together to describe--perhaps anthropologically--a culture created by French.

One of the most striking works, entitled "Slow Dance," is a pair of thin carvings that abstractly refer to figures in dance movement. They are similarly, slightly twisted dowels that curve towards each other on the wall. The differentiating element is a fist-sized sphere located in the middle of the right "figure" that seems to assign gender. Quite effectively, French has eliminated the wood origin of the objects as they take on a persona; the pair seem to lightly grace the wall in a slow, rhythmic movement.