"Some Remarks on the Painting of Janet Bruesselbach" by Jeffrey Grunthaner

on the paintings of Janet Bruesselbach A studious fidelity to perceptual nuances, etc. -> First aspect one notices.

This “studiousness” is a double-edged sword. On one side,

she paints in a style timelessly reminiscent of the Academy.

Which one?

On the other side: The kind of realism Janet opts for has less to do w/ a consistent fidelity

to the facts of perception, & more to do w/ ethical honesty in the face of personal experience.

To Janet’s credit, you have to acknowledge that she’s very honest.

I disagree with people who might hold it against her

for searching out avenues of expression related to

portrait/photographic Realism:

i.e. to some kind of academic formalism.

Which academy?

It’s significant to note that “mere technique” is made the object of a searching critique

in her show.

“I Hate Art.” A unified theme: Janet is critiquing herself as much as her medium. Looking at the works around you, you notice she’s consistently implying that there’s more to art than derivation & technique.

“I HATE ART”

What is the thoroughgoing subject-matter of this show, in these paintings? Generalizations…….motifs…………

Literally: Janet is thematically abstract.

Is this why she “hates art?”

“I Hate Art” = lacking an individuated subject-matter she can claim as her own.

She’s excoriating her own practice as a painter.

POSTSCRIPT:

The rather ///revealing/// painting:

“Self-Portrait w/ Negative Feedback”

 

The works selected for “I Hate Art” were intended to exemplify what not to do vis-à-vis painting. In line with this critical bias, the paintings Janet selected were marred by their honesty. When Janet’s not concerned with concepts—“Information Wants to be Wrong,” “Mating Display,” etc.—she’s painstakingly attentive to the details of situated perception. Generally, this sort of attentiveness leads to art school realism at its worst; & the paintings where she is most “realistic” are very much matters of odds & ends. They are compositions of pure technique, lacking any expressive heart.

Even “Information Wants to be Wrong” exemplifies this. It’s a large work, one which makes a thematic issue of an absent center. Does one do the painting any injustice by calling it a potpourri of various techniques? It even accommodates itself to something resembling a cubist entrapment of color. In a felt way, this painting lacks a unifying center. Janet seems to have asked herself: How should one choose to represent chaos? Yet she eludes aesthetic disaster by emphasizing that INFORMATION WANTS TO BE WRONG. She emphasizes, in other words, the totality of the canvass; but the painting still relies too heavily on a sense verbally encapsulated in its title. Ultimately, despite appreciable efforts on her part, & despite the painting’s mandala-like display, it seems the theme of “Information Wants To Be Wrong” comes into focus only as an afterthought.  The painting is about having to deal incessantly with extraneous or foreign materials; but there’s no real structural unity of form & content.

More recently, however, & as a result of her hatred of art, Janet has realized a painting where her studious realism is used to marvelous effect: “Self-Portrait with Negative Feedback.” Perhaps significantly, the work comprises negative comments that Janet’s friends made about her work. (These critical comments were recorded on a mirror during the opening night reception of “I Hate Art.”) What makes the painting so good? It’s not the figurative approach in itself, but the way it seems to demonstrate how situated, figurative painting can achieve an emotional intensity which more “expressive” manners of painting—i.e., those which evidently distort space—cannot similarly produce. “Self-Portrait with Negative Feedback” is hilarious in a way which only a figurative painting can be. It shows a young woman who has to suffer verbal abuse quietly, with something like a dubious glint about her eyes.  The lettering mingles with the young woman’s face in a way that adds a new dimension to the work: an expressive quality, even. We can’t tell where the negative phrases derive from, so we must assume they have the general significance of the negative feedback all women receive “by virtue” of being women. As social commentary, the painting succeeds in a highly relevant way; & it’s entirely likely that of all the works Janet exhibited in her show, the subject-matter of this painting indicates something that she can both cognitively understand & emotionally assimilate. To my mind, “Self-Portrait with Negative Feedback” stands apart by possessing a completely heightened pictorial significance; & for this reason I think it’s my favorite work by her that I’ve seen.

-Jeffrey Grunthaner

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