j. cr & p. brn

For his previous exhibit, “j. cr & p. brn,” artist Jonathan Stuhlman did what few artists are willing or able to do (or at least admit to publicly). He took the imagery in clothing catalogs seriously.
It isn’t an outrageous idea. After all, much work goes into all those snowy cabin and beach house scenes—the scenes which subtly suggest a connection between a chunky sweater and a better life. If the images weren’t subtle and skillful, they wouldn’t move merchandise.
Stuhlman’s paintings appropriated elements from these pictures in an oblique and distilled way. While there were no lanky models or linen shirts, you could certainly find the edges of these photos moved to the center of Stuhlman’s work: the edge of a parasol or the corner of an airy room. Impressively, he managed to distill those pictures’ stylish essence.
Stuhlman’s latest exhibit, “Peripherals,” is really an extension of the work in that earlier exhibit– and a bit of a refinement. The parasols and other familiar objects are now cut completely out of the frame, leaving the paintings shifted a few degrees further in the direction of abstraction. The connection to the imagery that first inspired him is a little less present.
Even so, Stuhlman manages to preserve the vibe. Stuhlman knows, for example, that a horizontal bar of reddish-tan stacked below a horizontal bar of medium blue then set below a square of light blue (“j.cr #4”), and the viewer will most likely think not only of sand, sea, and sky but also (perhaps because of a familiarity with Stuhlman’s work) of seasonal colors, the shades of knit shirts and khakis. This kind of painting, like a layer cake in profile, did turn up in the earlier exhibit, but here its one of the more representative works. 
“j. cr #12” is the one painting that seems to suggest a new direction for Stuhlman’s airy, minimalist catalog visions. It depicts a man on a horse most likely engaged in some catalog-type pursuit (polo?). The bright, highly stylized image clearly borrows the abstracting qualities found only in photography–- that is, the large, halo-like circles that appear when the lens of a camera catches sunlight. 

“Peripherals” by Jonathan Stuhlman runs through July 27 at the Gallery at Starr Hill. 709 Main St. 977-0017.

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