Reviews / Barbara Gallati

1982

Barbara Gallati

Ronald Markman’s painted wood collages are filled with an unrelenting, raucous, slapstick humor. Using imagery inspired by comic strips and cartoons, Markman offers a series of “stilllifes” (as he insists on calling them) that overflow with an assortment of objects, both real and of Markman’s own manufacture. Much of the narrative content contained in these works derives from the artist’s imaginary world of Mukfa which has been explored extensively in Markman’s earlier art.

Still life With Clock (1980) typifies the collages on view. Here, a functioning circular quartz wall clock presides over an elaborate series of jokes centering on the theme of time that would do an old vaudevillian proud. While “The Poc Poc Press” (the official newspaper of Mukfa) announces that “Time Marches On,” the viewer is presented with outworn visual puns such as a clock held in a hand to illustrate time on one’s hands. Another work, Stilllife at Hicksville (1982), alludes playfully to Edward Hicks’ The Peaceable Kingdom by means of window shutters that open from a quiet living room interior onto a jungle scene teeming with exotic animals.
As pointed out in the videotape available at the gallery, Markman’s unfettered flights of fancy often draw on childhood memories. This Is reflected in Stilllife With Letters (1981) in which an old table radio blares the latest Dow Jones figures, emitting them in a cartoon bubble.

All of Markman’s collages display a riotous confusion of pattern, texture, and color in combinations that are not unattractive. The jigsawed wooden shapes with which he builds his collages are reminiscent of old-fashioned wooden puzzles, but in this case, nothing fits together smoothly. Markman’s good-natured jumbles are deceptively simple, however, and one is reminded of this by the old song playing in the background of the videotape: “It Ain’t What You Do—It’s How You Do It.” (Terry Dintenfass, March 27-April 22)