Anthony Cudahy, Bruegel, 2018, Gouache on paper, 11 x 8.5 inches
Rifling through someone else’s studio is complete fun. I always feel like a detective trying to find the impetus for an artist’s creativity. I recently had the pleasure of visiting Anthony Cudahy’s studio to check out his new paintings. They are all headed to 1969 Gallery for a solo exhibition opening on September 13th. Like all good studio visitors, I went for the stuff that was tucked away, since I wanted to uncover the truth of Anthony’s process. I rifled through all his sketches and hidden paintings and discovered a young artist who has developed a mature style with a Charles Burchfield- like constancy. In a stack of loose paper sketches, I found several old master copies. Anthony handles the subjects proficiently, translating the studies into his own unique language. This was especially evident in a Breughel study. Here was an artist with a complete and beautiful way of portraying the world, and not even the art of his predecessors could change his vision.
Cudahy’s works are mostly figurative, except for a few still lives, and an image taken from nature. He describes everything with an efficient use of line and shading that is a cross between Edward Munch and Luc Tuymans. Cudahy embodies a surprising amount of emotion in simple shapes, or a carefully placed area of rendering. His figures seem lifelike and mobile. His forms are placed in graphic compositions that suggest a clear sense of space. Strong lights and darks contrast, creating drama, like in an Anthony van Dyck painting. When he uses colors, it is also done simply and elegantly. Many of his paintings are just two tonalities; a dull juxtaposed with a phosphorescent. At times he uses a fuller palette which is always carefully arranged for maximum impact.
Anthony Cudahy, Arrangement, 2018, Oil on canvas, 60 x 72 inches
After succeeding in disorganizing his studio, I turned to his newer works. My favorite, Arrangement, has a perfect title because its very design is arranged for the viewer to fit the pieces together. This painting is reminiscent of a Last Supper scene, with an angled table, like Tintoretto’s. A group of alizarin crimson red men gather around a pink phosphorescent table. The figures are situated in a dark room, fiddling with flowers, with contemplative looks on their faces. Two medieval inspired demons dance above their heads holding a long rope. The mood is grave. One man is found pulling leaves from a stem, as if counting down time. Another man stares longingly at a pile of petals. Perhaps this figure is out of time while the person next to him, who looks a lot like Cudahy, has a flourishing bouquet.
So, what is the “arrangement”? Anthony doesn’t let us know, but instead provides us with many clues. Is it the arrangement of life and death? Could it simply be the flower arrangements? Perhaps it’s about seating assignments or even a deal with demons. The composition is perfectly arranged, using the table’s angle and a crescendo of red hues to lead the viewer’s eye across the frame to a two-headed person gazing at a man holding his bouquet upside-down. Did this man upset the arrangement? As I try to figure it out, I realize I am just like those figures in his paintings who are deep in thought, reflecting upon the situation while the demons gleefully dance, stringing me along. Perhaps the marvel of Arrangement, is that the calculations are unending.
Anthony’s large figurative paintings feature complicated emotions and bold compositions. They are a joy to look at, not to solve but to join in with, to sit down with at the table and throw in your lot.
Aaron Zulpo, Rooftop, 2018, Oil on canvas, 72 x 50 inches
Aaron Zulpo (b. Chicago, Illinois) is an artist in New York. He is a narrative painter who explores themes from love to cowboys. His work is part of “Wacky Western” with Visions West Contemporary, August 10 to September 9. Currently commission paintings for Greenwich West are on display in the form of billboards and posters in Lower Manhattan. He is curating “Knight Errant” by Kevin Sudeith at Project: ARTspace opening September 12 and going to October 13.