Farrell Brickhouse: Recent Paintings at Life on Mars Gallery
Farrell Brickhouse might have one of the best names for a painter ever. His recent show of paintings and prints is understated yet bold. The buildup of paint and understated complexity of his compositions lull and charm you into a friendly yet kind world full of lush brushstrokes and beautiful images.
His surfaces are built up in very unique ways through a multi-layering of thick oil paint and many repeated passes over a long period of time. A process this timely might become lost on new generations of painters who do everything fast and then faster. He also seems to find the most interesting surfaces to paint on. Glitter is used on almost all the pieces, while never overused.
The oil paint used in these pieces hold light in place and do a lot of the work for the painter. One of his builder series pieces has blocks of color built inches off the canvas. A strange mouse hangs out and away from the surface standing next to a vertical Tetris of colored squares. The build up toward the bottom of the piece helps give more gravity and volume to the work. I am convinced these pieces would not look good on a grand scale and Farrell has learned to use these smaller spaces confidently and humbly.
“Guys Moving Wood II” is a painting where the title says it all. This is my favorite piece in the show and it reminds me of a video game where guys grouped in threes and fours happily carry brown rectangles back and forth across a muted background. This piece is musical and rhythmic in a way that is emblematic of a painter who loves painting and celebrates his subjects with joy.
Little feet hang from the top of the piece and though it is a horizontal piece, it references a vertical continuation of the subjects. Some of the men have little hats which I love. Saying these are cute should not belittle Farrell’s efforts; art can be many things at once.
Like many abstract painters who reference recognizable subjects in their work, Farrell has developed a language system very much his own. His way of painting looks childlike at first but draws you in as you see only a skilled painter could.
Abstract Expressionism showed a large and emotional way of image making that was necessary at the time but may not be so true now. How Farrell could make these small works look so convincing makes me rethink what successful painting is.
It’s great to see late career painters revitalizing their careers via social media outlets. Facebook is turning out to be a new tool for artists and this may be the sad future for them. Gallerists also are going to have to use these new outlets to promote themselves to sell their work. Self-advocacy won’t get easier for artists but will become absolutely necessary and may hopefully shift the art world centers away from places where there is little economic diversity.