Good Scribbling

Good Scribbling

Sam Reveles makes sophisticated use of repetitive marks to reconcile color and drawing

At a recent holiday gathering, another art critic was overheard saying, in reference to Sam Reveles, “This one does scribbles.”

Whether intended as a joke or an expression of a world-weary critic exposed to too much kid art of late, the remark gave this reviewer pause. As a fan of Sam Reveles’ work in general and an admirer of his current show at CRG Gallery, I found the remark glib at best.

However, it must be acknowledged that Reveles’ paintings are made up of “scribbles.”

In art circles, these are called gestural marks. Reveles is a highly sophisticated artist and has made a valiant attempt to reconcile the drawing versus color question. The works are covered with layer upon layer of repetitive marks in graded tones and intensities of similar color—all this on top of what resembles thin washes of horizons in equally intense but contrasting color. These washes are visible only in the periphery of the canvases.

The result resembles a cartoon rumble or an explosion, set on the lone prairie.

The effect is anything but comical and gives new meaning to the term palimsest, an effect that many artists fake as a way to make a painting. Spiritual and emotional ineffebilities seem to be the subject matter here. The contrasting color reinforces this reading and what at first seems like happy or party–like color resonates with supernatural intensity. The art of Tibet and India comes to mind.

Instead of extinguishing what lies underneath, the layers of marks seem holistic and happen at once with the place or the landscape underneath. The size of these paintings is small to medium “human scale.” This intensifies the feeling of a personal experience and moves the paintings further away from pictorial tactic and closer to cerebral phenomena.

“Indian Roman” and “Zaragosa” are especially satisfying in terms of color. All the paintings are beautifully made and the surface is highly refined which is in strong contrast to the initial funk n fiasco impression. I find the show admirable, iconic and desirable. In a time of unbridled mannerism, it’s good to see work that is close to the essence of painting.