Over the past one-hundred-and-fifty years, American landscape painting has gone from heroic to peaceful to decorative, so maybe it’s finally time to reinvigorate the genre by making the great outdoors a melodrama where vegetation is the villain. Everything in Joseph Noderer’s humid world seems overrun with something like kudzu, that notorious invasive species that flourishes throughout the South with vibrant green life even as, like Walmart, it smothers everything in its path. Trees, barns and even people are transformed into something new and beautiful, but definitely not what they used to be. It’s a gothic tale, like “Wuthering Heights,” where nature has reclaimed that problematic experiment we call civilization—made all the more compelling because Noderer is such an expressive and painterly image maker. Each painting glows and pops with a sharp, delicious design, even if it’s depicting a face that’s more tuberous than human. Noderer lives in Austin, Texas, but I suspect he spends a lot of time up in some remote hill country where the human footprint, and social ideals, are continually challenged by a backwoods mentality and the forces of nature.
A curious feature of this exhibit are the black-and-white monochrome paintings that really don’t work. Their tones are flat and their drawing brittle and weak. Perhaps they’re supposed to feel dead, in contrast to the luscious, colorful life in the paintings that hang beside them. But death deserves more respect than that.
Another curious feature is a single, very colorful bio-form abstract painting. It’s rapturously beautiful, shot through with strands of luminous color like a piece of blown glass. But why is it in this show? Perhaps this very talented painter is tired of looking at the world collapsing around him, so now he’s going to make his own. (Chris Miller)
Through May 17 at Linda Warren Projects, 327 North Aberdeen.