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Andre von Morisse at James Graham & Sons
Andre von Morisse, a young painter from Norway making his U.S. solo debut, has turned in a poignant show of exotic and striking paintings of fish. These large canvases feature piranhas, launches and pike. Each work consists of two-panels, a narrow upper canvas showing sky and dry land, and in the lower panels, underwater imagery. At first glance, the works come across as competent exercises in a retro oil technique and a backward-looking sensibility that may or may not be influenced by the neo-Realist paintings of von Morisse's well-known compatriot, Odd Nerdrum. But unlike the older painter's nostalgia-drenched odes to Baroque art, von Morisse's fish are fresh and profoundly modern.
Paintings such as You Meet Those You Love in Heaven, with its school of silvery herring sweeping across the surface in great waves, betrays an Ab Ex feeling of space, light and motion, while the neat row of pickled herring jars along the bottom indicates a Pop sensibility. In Piranha, a single fish occupying nearly the entire lower portion of the large canvas could have been rendered only by an artist conversant with the ideals of Minimalism. The lovingly painted creature with a glowing red underbelly and glittering fins conveys a portrait-like expressivity.
Von Morisse's fish may be thinly disguised stand-ins for human beings. His compositions could refer to human interaction. But sometimes a beautifully painted fish is just a beautifully painted fish.
Andre von Morisse, Mar. 2-25, 2000, at James Graham & Sons, 1014 Madison Avenue, New York, N.Y. 10021.
DAVID EBONY is associate managing editor at Art in America magazine.