Visiting the Covered Bridge Artisans during their 19th Annual Holiday Studio Tour, Ellen Shaughnessey and I soaked up picturesque Hunterdon County, New Jersey. (What beautiful farmhouses and barns—and not a housing development in sight!) Though we couldn’t visit each participant, we were impressed with the Tour’s high quality offerings and its excellent curation.
Marlow Rodale met me at his Banana Factory studio to discuss new paintings and catch up on recent art projects. We first met in 2012 in Allentown when we were paired together by Soft Machine Gallerist Eva Di Orio as we are both artists who paint conceptual, imaginary spaces. Marlow’s part of the exhibit was called Neofuturism, and his current work employs the same elements he used then: transparency, layering, architectural forms and circuit-board-like, parallel lines. His work is rooted in Cubism and Futurism, as well as the sleek Bauhaus or International styles of architecture.
“Gates of Rileh” Marlow Rodale
The paintings are brightly colored, anxious with activity, and devoid of figures. He situates the viewer in a space that feels empty, yet it’s walled in by painterly information, and occasionally studded with 3-D modular forms. I focus on Rodale’s vibrant color, paint drips, scraped areas, graphic details and masses of squares or rectangles temporarily, I am compelled to study one unrelated detail after another. The work triggers associations with vertigo, speed, travel, technology and
restlessness, themes that have been linked with Futurism since the 1930s. The work makes me hyperaware of movement and time passing, and his markers of frenetic change seem frozen in time on canvas. Oddly, the compositions spur me to rush ahead and excavate a sketchy future even as my footing in the present is very uncertain. I take away a mixed message from the work: “Stay!” and “Run!” are both viable choices, which is the same as stepping back for a broad perspective of these extreme opposites, and doing so creates a sense of resolution.
Written While Listening to Maria Woodford Sing “Ball ’n’ Chain” at Blues Week, Augusta, Georgia, June 2012.
God to have been there (Tenant house? Alley? Loafers’ bench? Brothel foyer?) the moment he or she—a genius of metaphor—blurted out, “Blue” in answer to, “How ya feeling?” And then maybe this same genius (Calloused hands? Manicured nails? Overalls? Tuxedo?) began chording in triplets with the first two notes tied, a chunk-a-chunk rhythm that will put the lamp where it’s own head blocks the light and what’s it to you if it goes blind; a weary, up-from-nothing rhythm that makes changing from the tonic to the sub-dominant a tooth-and-claw triumph. (But note how quickly your breaking free has led to your restraint, and your “victory” was all a plot to put you under the magnifying glass and burn you to a cinder with the dominant chord whose tones spelled f-a-t-e are actually the overtones from an ultra low frequency chord spelled c-h-a-r-a-c-t-e-r); a mesmerizing, sexual rhythm that makes you hike your skirt and back up to the gas heater and so what if I set my stockings on fire and burn off my girdle; a rhythm that makes your hips swing on their own, makes your eyes close on their own, makes your masks fall flat like old-time Hollywood storefront facades, and there you stand amid the dust as naked as the day you were born and who would have guessed that you’re a poet and have got a lot of things to say and want to tell everybody exactly how you feel. —All because of tied triplets and a metaphor.