Douglas Degges, "Props for Pictures"

Review of Douglas Degges' Props for Pictures, By Maureen O'Leary

The paintings in Douglas Degges' intimate series "Props for Pictures" have an innate organic appeal that make them winsome exercises in form that you want to spend time with.  A broad color range flickers through the earthy and good-humored personae of these small works.  United by an ambitious impasto that recalls poorly-stirred pancake batter, the paintings have only a rough compositional geometry - with rectangles, triangles and edges coming and going.  The heavy application of paint happens to subsume traces of how the works came to be, with marks by brushes or knives unapparent.  As such the works almost appear as if they emerged through growth or ooze.  

The terrain of each painting is as beautiful as it is unfamiliar.  Rugged, and irregular, such that each piece has a charm that infects the others;  the paintings form a dynamic and flexible series demonstrating one rich visual discovery after another.  Degges' effective use of underpainting suggests the composition is held together by a certain slow-moving tectonic activity, that molten paint may still emerge from deep within the dry surface.  It is an engaging act of aesthetics encouraging you not to turn away lest the parts shift.

The consistent structure of the substrate is one of the main stable points in the series.  There is a nod to Albers' disciplined experimentation with color on rectangles but in these works the belt has been very much loosened.  Degges also builds effectively on the prior use of impasto by Jess, moving it out of the formal link to objects and vistas and into abstraction of materials and motifs.

Together the regularity and differences of the paintings form interchangeable stanzas and seem strongest in each others' company.  It is impressive that Degges does not appear to have exhausted this current vein of experimentation.

Douglas Degges is a painter based in Chattanooga, Tennessee.  He has recently shown work at the Shed Space, Brooklyn and GLITCH in Memphis, Tennessee.  He is currently teaching at the University of Tennessee, Chattanooga.