The Daily Californian

Breaking All The Rules: Plastic Art, Times
Two Artists Use Art to Combine the Natural And the Plastic
Thursday, September 15, 2005


COURTESY/WHITNEY VOSBURGH
'Resurrection Talisman' by Philip Donahue, is part of a colorful collection that explores the real and the surreal.


COURTESY/PHILIP DONAHUE
'Molten Trance' by Philip Donahue, is a cornucopia of colors that delve into interior and exterior landscapes. Donahue's paintings are 'visual languages.'

The plain brown exterior of the YWCA building on Bancroft would never suggest that it houses an art gallery inside. But it does, and there's an impressive show on display until October 31 entitled "Paint Behaving Badly: Shrink Wrapped Ecstacy and Other Forbidden Tales," a two man show featuring the art of Whitney Vosburgh and Philip Donahue.

Both artists, who grew up in Japan, the United States, and Europe, use synthetic paints as a way of commenting on today's synthetic times. Neither of them are strangers to the Berkeley area - Vosburgh is a fourth generation Berkeley resident, and Donahue, a 30 year Berkeley resident,   received his PhD at UC Berkeley.

The way in which the paintings are displayed keeps in theme with the eccentricty of the artists themselves: They are hung throughout several rooms within the YWCA, as if they were an ordinary part of the decor.

A standout piece by Donahue is "Redwood Cathedral Dreams" painted with resin, glicee, and acrylic on canvas. Staring at the painting is comparable to standing in the middle of a forest on a summer afternoon, and Donahue's ability to capture the minute detail of each leaf while keeping a distant and almost surreal perspective is amazing.

Several of Vosburgh's paintings appear as if they were made from the melted wax of several brightly colored candles, including "Tropic Topic", which was made with polymer paint on canvas. The paintings in this vein would go perfect in any tiki-inspired abode. Lacking any variation aside from title and size, these paintings do not appear to be as powerful or as skillfully painted as the rest of the exhibition.

Donahue's "Angle Island Blues" looks like the artist found the most exquisite peacock he could, turned it into glass and then smashed it flat, a gorgeously executed and esoteric mix of blue hues.


COURTESY/PHILIP DONAHUE
"Green World Transformed"

Arguably the best work in the exhibit is "Green World Transformed" by Donahue. For this painting the artist combined the most beautiful blacks, greens, blues, and purples in an eloquent swirl of passion. The work showcases Donahue's talent for capturing vibrant colors and commenting on the absorption of the natural into plastic ways of modernity.

Vosburgh combined polymer paint and tissues to create "Wiped Out", which is best described as a cotton-candy-carnival-explosion of color and texture. A similar piece by Vosburgh is titled "M&M Soup", and it does indeed looklike a bag full of M&Ms melted and stirred together in an almost nauseating, yet glorious concoction of bright, sugary colors. The artist is at his best when he sticks to these boisterous, fuji colored polymers and mixed media, as the exhibit does.

The show consists of about 30 paintings that are each unique unto themselves while remaining intrinsically linked as the artists both occasionally embrace similar color palates and themes. If you enjoy whimsical art at its best, don't miss this wonderfully bright and playful exhibition of genuine talent before it's gone.

WHAT: "Paint Behaving Badly," an Art Exhibition at The University of California at Berkeley Gallery
WHERE: 2600 Bancroft Way, cross street Bowditch
COST: Free
WHEN: September 15 through Oct. 31 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday-Friday

Smash peacocks with Marya at arts@dailycal.org.