Frank Bramblett at Levy Gallery, Moore College of Art

by Miriam Seidel
Art in America
October 2001
Frank Bramblett's large paintings—each 7 1/2 by 6 feet—just about knock you over with their abundance, their spectacular accumulation of related forms. Each has its own world of repeated marks, shapes, colors and textures, all lavishly, almost sickeningly multiplied.

Razzle-Dazzle (2000), for instance, is filled with an explosion of floral color—rose-red, yellow and pink—built up in thick blobs of modeling paste over a flatter, darker ground, which is itself hyper-articulated with a lacework of color and shadow. The profusion of globules rolling over each other in eyedotcom (1999)—large and small, some flat and some highlighted as if round, painted in children's-room colors—comes off as equally playful and disturbing. The irislike circles inside the smaller globes make them read as disembodied eyes, suggesting some dumb, ungiving (robotic?) being looking over the viewer.


Tete-a-tete (2000) carries a similar double charge. In the crowded picture plane, headlike ovals of pink or brown jostle for placement. Some sport rudimentary features; more reveal scumbled, brainlike networks or even hint at fetal forms. These works showed thoughtful, highly personalized takes on the now common perceptual experience of being overwhelmed by too much data, often of the mediated kind.


Others of the large paintings (there were eight in all), with dark, metallic or blackboardlike surfaces, present coded messages. Underneath floating organic forms, for example, the slick graphite surface of Mind Mine (1997–98) is studded with tacks, spelling out in Braille a story about Henry Cray, father of supercomputers. The cursive words on the surface of Erasing Extinction (1999) are baroquely distended and transformed by layers of echoing patterned lines; these last bring to mind the compulsive surface covering often found in drawings by schizophrenics. It's as if these paintings take refuge in their secrets, turning inward all the threatening multiplicity of the more extroverted works.


A series of smaller, mixed-medium paintings on panel, hung in a grid on one wall, were also opaque in their specific references, even while offering abundant clues to meanings residing in them. They were extremely appealing—partly informal test panels for colors and materials, partly diaristic pastiches of snapshots, color notes, and painted cloud and rock forms. Here the artist seemed to invite us into the thought process behind the larger works—and to caution against any definitive interpretations.


© 2001 Brant Publications, Inc.