Bruce Mitchell
Durham, NC
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Reviews & Other Press


The August 5, 2011 edition of the Durham Herald Sun featured a review by Blue Greenberg of my show at Piola in Chapel Hill (as well as a contemporaneous show by another artist in another location).

The November 2010 issue of Southwest Art magazine features my work, The Foreseeable Future, as part of the article entitled "21 Over 31."

Studio Visit magazine, Volume 11 features two of my recent paintings.

Several paintings and an article by me are featured in the premiere issue of ArtSync: The Art Magazine of North Carolina, March 2009.

ArtSync: The Art Magazine of North Carolina

Radio interview: Claudio's SpeakEasy on WCOM 103.5 FM Carrboro, 01.06.2009

Recent review: "Seeing the Signs" by Deborah R. Meyer, The Chapel Hill News, June 6, 2007

Earlier review:

"Eyeballs and Amoebas - Bruce Mitchell's exuberant abstractions"

by Leon Nigrosh
Worcester Phoenix, January 5, 2001

[Review of Paintings by Bruce Mitchell at CC Lowell, 258 Park Avenue, Worcester, MA December 7, 2000 through January 9, 2001]

Question: What do Ralph's Chadwick Square Diner, napkins, and Warner Brothers animation have in common? Answer: Not much, really, unless you're Bruce Mitchell. Then these disparate entities serve as the important nexus for a growing series of exuberant abstract paintings. Mitchell, a child of the '60s, grew up in Worcester in front of a television set, transfixed by the antics of Tex Avery's and Chuck Jones's zany cartoon characters. The images of eyeballs popping, fast action, and bright colors stayed with him for years, well into the long nights at the original Ralph's where, to pass the time, he would make quick pen drawings on paper napkins, all the while refining his ever-expanding vocabulary of imaginitive iconography.

Fifteen of Mitchell's recent paintings are currently on display along the gallery wall at CC Lowell, and they will literally stop you in your tracks. This writer actually witnessed a young woman rush into the store and come to a complete halt in front of the paintings. Then she said, "These are fun to look at." Even the UPS guy stopped to look. And this is what Mitchell says his work is all about. He wants to make paintings that he can continue to enjoy looking at in his own home. If others can appreciate his pictures, that's a bonus.

One remarkable aspect of these spirited works is the way they are created, with no stencils or templates, as one might at first suspect. Mitchell makes a 10-minute drawing, "a cartographic exercise," directly on the canvas and then begins to paint with very meticulous and tempered brushwork in flat colors "just like putting a puzzle together." Largely self-taught, Mitchell's research went well beyond Saturday morning Looney Tunes and Silly Symphonies, into comprehensive studies and exercises similar to the Dadaists (1915-1922) and their attempts at subconscious automatism - automatic writing, or in this case, automatic drawing. He also was attracted to the brightly hued, abstract patterning of American painter Stuart Davis (1892-1964), who worked with precise outlines and sharply contrasting colors in a poster-like style.

These influences can be readily recognized in Mitchell's largest horizontal canvas, The American. Here we see a conglomeration of floating objects, rendered in brilliant colors seemingly whirling about in space. Desperately we try to identify them. There's those eyeballs, and some choice cuts of meat, floating wheels, amoebas, and car crashes. Someone said that it reminded him of Picasso's Guernica, while another thought it to be impressions of Dr. Seuss's food. But that's definitely a vertebra in the very long and narrow Hello Skinny, isn't it?

Regardless of what we try to make of these separate pieces, it's the way that Mitchell puts them together that is so eye-catching. Each discrete object appears above or below its neighbor, but Mitchell, through his use of flat color, keeps the depth of field so shallow that a sense of ambiguity further confounds our attempts to clarify the composition. And in Mon Oncle, strange little creatures in shades of vibrating blue, turquoise, and purple vie for our attention on a hot pink background, creating a shimmering afterimage when we turn away.

Mitchell also likes to play with proportions. While not averse to the Golden Mean rectangle, he prefers non-traditional sizes like his 18 x 70-inch Wish Comes to Shove or the eight by 40-inch Alone Too Long with its cogs and bones fluttering above a scumbled red/blue/green background. Even in his tiny 3 by 5-inch canvases, Mitchell reduces his icons to an appropriate scale while maintaining a sense of excitement within the frame. This excitement, or tension, is heightened by the fact that none of the myriad shames ever exit the frame - they don't even touch it. Each mélange of forms is completely isolated, in opposition to its apparent freedom of movement.

But the main attraction of these paintings is that they are fun-filled. They were fun for Mitchell to make and they are fun for us to look at. They tell no particular story, nor are they meant to. Much like Stuart Davis's abstract works, they are meant to be enjoyed for their own sake. The shapes, colors, arrangements, and incongruities are there simply to engage us visually and mentally. It worked for Davis - he got his own postage stamp. Will this happen for Mitchell? Stay tuned.

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