A COUPLE OF NOBODIES: In their new show at Jane Deering Gallery, well-known and prolific Santa Barbara artists Dane Goodman and Keith Puccinelli converge over a dizzying process known as trace printing. A piece of drawing paper is placed onto an inked linoleum block, and the artist then draws on the dry reverse surface of the paper with some kind of stylus. When the first proof is peeled away, a simple print is created, showing a mirror image of whatever has been drawn on the reverse side. In subsequent proofs, the original image comes up as a negative from where the ink has been taken away. At each go, the paper picks up more static and atmosphere from dust, air bubbles, and distortion. The trace printing technique was used to great effect by Marie Schoeff in her January 2012 show Traces, also at Deering, but in this instance, with two artists involved, the drama inherent in the sequencing and multiplicity of the images takes on an added dimension of dialogue.
And what a dialogue it is. It’s an existential circus in these 110 prints, populated by Puccinelli’s now familiar clowns and Goodman’s surrogate, the snowman, along with a broad cast of goofy nobodies, including a guy pushing a lawn mower, a peanut head smoking a pipe, a snake, a buffalo, and one cracked-out crocodile, as well as Abe Lincoln. As the most important recurring figures, snowman and clown go through all kinds of trials and tribulations. In one plate, the melting head of snowman dangles precipitously over a candle while clown, likewise decapitated and dangling, does his best to blow it out. Apparently, clown has snowman’s back, at least on this one. At other times, as when smiling snowman surfs the prone dead body of clown, the message is more ambivalent.
As in the previous work of both artists, not far beneath a playful surface lies a darkly mystical engagement with threshold states — not only the limits of consciousness and the limits of recognition but also the limits of life. The charming small catalog created to accompany the show, which includes a great essay by David Pagel, is called “eating fresh peaches and tomatoes talking about death drawing together,” which I take to be an entirely straightforward and literal description of the way this work was created. If clown is man as, well, clown, then snowman is perhaps understandable as a Duchampian pun on “snowman = ’s no man,” as in “it’s no man.” In this as in so many things, Wallace Stevens has the appropriate last words, and they appear in the last stanza of his poem “The Snow Man.”
For the listener, who listens in the snow,
And, nothing himself, beholds
Nothing that is not there and the nothing that is.
Dane Goodman/Keith Puccinelli: The Trace Prints Project will be at the Jane Deering Gallery through Saturday, March 30.
MATA ORTIZ: Over at the Boys & Girls Club of Santa Barbara (632 E. Canon Perdido St.) on March 8, 9, and 10, there will be an exhibition and workshop featuring the handmade pottery and silver shard jewelry of Mata Ortiz, a small village in Chihuahua, Mexico. Visitors can choose from among many examples of this ancient tradition that has recently been revived and modernized, or they may participate in the workshop, in which they will build, paint, and fire a Mata Ortiz–style pot all in the space of a weekend. For more information or to reserve a space in the workshop, call (805) 708-1637 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.