Andre Butzer asserts that his recent paintings are “similar to everything I did before” and the audience “should react and be irritated by it.” But they don’t seem all that irritating to me. The annoying, cartoony stupid-faces—did they owe more to Walt Disney or Edvard Munch?—have disappeared from the work, and what’s left is buoyant calligraphy of thick paint in primary colors. There’s a carnal energy that occasionally erupts into fleshy tones and shapes, lending the effect of an uninhibited child cavorting with rubber duckies in the bathtub. Yet this happy kid is also a deft painter and there’s an enjoyable precision and measured balance about his designs. In a nod to the contemporary collector’s need to be puzzled, Butzer also offers a gray painting with two black rectangles. By itself, it’s a cipher, but it does serve well to cleanse the palette between his more boisterous entrées.
Down the road, Vidvuds Zviedris is showing a collection of recent abstract painting that stands apart from earlier work. His work has always been about the joyful manipulation of surfaces and shapes, especially with incongruous objects that fit surprisingly well together. Recently, an extended visit to Marzano Appio, a small Italian village nestled in the hills north of Naples, has created a fascination with sense of place. You can’t recognize any tree-covered lanes or rustic cottages, but his large paintings are saturated with scenic joy in an exciting variety of color schemes and textures. They’re as delightfully decorative as any tapestry or quilt has ever been. In his largest piece, he tentatively introduces a human face and figure, but, sadly, the design collapses around it. This only highlights the boundless energy in all the other works.
If art must be the mirror we hold up to ourselves, it’s no wonder so much contemporary art feels alienated, confused, depressed, or angry. But, even today, some very talented painters still manage to bask in happiness, and they don’t mind sharing it. (Chris Miller)
Andre Butzer through March 17 at Rhona Hoffman Gallery, 118 North Peoria. Vidvuds Zviedris through March 31 at Thomas McCormick Gallery, 835 West Washington.