Mark Woolley Gallery, Portland, Oregon
by Richard Speer
That Tom Cramer titled his most recent body of work The Politics of Experience, after a 1967 tome by psychiatrist R. D. Laing, will not surprise those familiar with the artist, whose work has long mapped the topographies of mind and spirit. Cramer exultantly evoked the multifarious states of human consciousness—from epiphany to reverie to nightmare—in his semi-abstract panels, his intricately carved mazes and curlicues suggesting, at their most literal, the dense folds of gray matter.
First drawn free-hand, then carved into thick wooden planks, and finally painted or gilded with gold, silver, or copper leafs, the finished works emanated an airy hyperkineticism that belied their robust construction. By varying the size of the mosaic-like chunks elemental to his compositions, Cramer created astonishing illusions of depth, most notably in works such as Euphoria and Sensorium, which suggested spots of shade and dappled light beneath a forest canopy. The soothing quality of these pieces contrasted with the sinister Machine Culture, a dystopian jumble of clashing spokes, axles, and gears. Integrating elements from his sun-and-shadow pastorales with his darker visions, Cramer blasted the viewer’s eye into hyperspace in Corridor #6 and Comet, their concentric forms exploding outward or pulling inward with a kind of relentless cosmologic energy.
Their base colors ranging from turquoise and ultramarine to the pastels of Sleeping Beauty, the panels were suffused with washes of oil paint that pooled in their serpentine crannies, each organic shape an island surrounded by color. But the punchiest works, without doubt, were those glinting with 24-karat gold leaf. Jaw-droppingly rich, monolithic even though meticulously detailed, these objets mystérieux crackled with the inscrutability of Ancient Egyptian sarcophagi. Fashioned from wood and gold, indubitably born of the earth, they seemed nevertheless conceived for worlds beyond it.
BACK TO RICHARD'S ARTNEWS REVIEW MENU
BACK TO RICHARD'S WELCOME PAGE
BACK TO RICHARD'S RESUME