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Jan Nelson: Black River Running

From Delicious Line, 25 May 2018
by Ranger Thomas

Jan Nelson’s ten paintings of life-size figures hang sparsely in the gallery. Stripes of primary color underline them, recalling a paint job at a kindergarten but with the geometry of a Noland.

The images have flat backgrounds of lollipop rainbows. The little girls depicted in each are garishly overdressed, too many headphones and gadgets, hats and wigs, shades and goggles. Their comforters, toys, and clothing should reassure but somehow only add to the disquiet. Impeccably painted and drawn, in front of them I feel a presence, as with well-executed, life-size figure paintings of the big tradition.

Is there one model? It’s hard to tell. I couldn’t help but be uncomfortable with them, not because they’re noisy children, but because of their silence. Are they witnesses to our future? A bubblegum apocalypse? It’s as if Ingres had a bad LSD trip and became obsessed with the shape of children to come.

Beautiful and disturbing, “Black River Running” is a haunting experience.

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