American, born 1973
Urethane on linen
84 x 140 inches (213.3 x 355.6 cm)
Sarah Norton Goodyear Fund, 2010
Barnaby Furnas’s painterly practice entails a “mashup” of modernism, culling from influences and sources including nineteenth-century European history painting, French Romanticism, Action Painting, Abstract Expressionism, the cartoon-like figures of Carroll Dunham (who was his teacher), the Civil War, rock and roll icons, and the Bible. Furnas’s most recent series, “Floods,” consists of monumentally scaled canvases depicting tsunami-like washes of blood-red paint. The color red, suggestive of heat, rage, fear, love, and intensity, almost always appears in Furnas’s work, but here takes center stage as threads of color—green, blue, black, and yellow—weave delicately beneath its surface. Set against blue or black skies and with titles such as Red Sea (Closing) and The Whale, both 2009, these works suggest biblical stories of arks and parting waters, as well as current natural disasters such as Hurricane Katrina and dark undertones of the Apocalypse. Motion is also manifested in tidal waves of red paint, which sweeps and crashes across the canvases, evoking the Action Paintings of Gutai artists and the works of Yves Klein. This reference is probably not lost on Furnas, who creates the works through a combination of sweeping brushstrokes combined with spritzing, flinging, splattering, dripping, and pouring either paint or paint thinner (urethane). Many of the “Floods” paintings have a faint, zip-like line that runs down the canvas, a deliberate reference to the paintings of Barnett Newman. But, in fact, Furnas can be connected to a broad range of Abstract Expressionists—including Mark Rothko, Helen Frankenthaler, Morris Louis, and Jackson Pollock—in his desire to encapsulate sublime emotion through primal forms, urgent color, and simple gestures.
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