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Lee Stoetzel at Tricia Collins Contemporary Art
 
     
 
"The Barbizon Suite"
installation view
 
Ghost Flame
1998
 
In recent years, a number of painters have gone to great lengths to prove that installation art is not the exclusive domain of sculptors. This odd and haunting work by New York painter Lee Stoetzel, titled "The Barbizon Suite," is one of the more successful endeavors to this end. In an effort to transform the public gallery space into a home, curator and gallerist Tricia Collins turned the "bedroom" over to Stoetzel, who covered the walls with "scenic" murals and included a stark bed with painted linens. He also contributed to the "living room" an odd sculpture of a fireplace -- titled Ghost Flame -- which is inhabited by the artist's wire and paper-mache "ghosts."

In spite of the bedroom's exuberant imagery, featuring abstracted figures, flying birds and writhing snakes, the artist has created a calming, dreamlike atmosphere. His fluid brushwork in nearly monochrome blue is highlighted by staccato flourishes and carefully calibrated graffito scrawls. The varied technique is balanced by the unity of the semi-abstract forms, all rendered with the convulsive excitement that recalls Surrealist paintings by Ernst and Masson. In his work, Stoetzel has found an imaginative use for a Surrealist idiom from the '20s and '30s, with which he invigorates a decidedly post-modern genre.