Raoul Middleman's vast energy keeps his works exhilarating

October 02, 1992|By John Dorsey | John Dorsey,Art Critic

I usually dislike artists' statements -- they tend to be pompous and/or silly -- but Raoul Middleman's statement accompanying his current show at Artshowcase is different. It's almost chatty, and begins in a self-deprecatory way:

"In a dream I had, my eldest son asked what kind of artist I was, to which I replied that I thought I was an expressionist. 'You're no expressionist, Daddy; you're an impatientist.' "

That's true. Encountering a Middleman show, one admires the nervous energy of his brush stroke, but wishes the artist had the patience and discipline to keep it from simply going sloppy over and over, at least partly spoiling the effect of what might otherwise be dynamic, dramatic pictures.

In "Woods Behind Castle," for instance, the green dabs of paint at the bottom of the canvas resolutely refuse to become leaves -- which, with a little more care, they might have done -- and insist on continuing as green dabs. In "View Over the Church, Rochefort-en-Terre" the red-shuttered upper window in the near wall on the left certainly isn't painted in a trompe l'oeil fashion, but it works wonderfully at communicating the idea of the beauty of age and a certain amount of decay, while the window immediately beneath it is simply a blotch.

An artist must be what he must be, however, and Middleman's method has its strengths. When he writes, "Skies with lots of hurtling clouds, before or after a storm, are my thing," he's absolutely right, and the best paintings here, such as "Gulf of Morbihan" and "Under a Stormy Sky" are those in which swirling gray clouds with the light coming through them play a major part.

He's also good with cityscapes, especially views of the seamier parts of the city, in which the very casualness of his brush stroke is appropriate to the ramshackle nature of what he's depicting.

There are no modern city scenes in the current exhibit, which consists of works created last summer in Brittany, especially in and around the town of Rochefort-en-Terre. Among the paintings, the most successful include the two mentioned above and, despite its blotch of a window, "View Over the Church . .*." which benefits from its steep perspective.

Aside from the oils, there are watercolors and pastels. The best of the former is, as might be expected, "Clouds," and among the latter "Path to the Hills" stands up best to close scrutiny.

Other works here suffer from faults including too-bright color (which may be meant expressionistically but doesn't come across that way) and the ever-hasty execution. But it must be said that they are all enlivened by the dynamic energy Middleman brings to all he does, and which, in spite of its pitfalls, remains an exhilarating quality.

Raoul Middleman

Where: Artshowcase Gallery, 336 N. Charles St.

When: Tuesdays to Saturdays 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Through Oct. 31.

Call: (410)-783-0007.

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