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Angus Mcpherson: Two Decades on Canvas

By Jeffrey Lee

OCTOBER 20, 1997:  Angus Macpherson has established such a solid reputation as a landscape painter that it's a particular pleasure to see what else he's been up to for 20 years. His sunny palette and peculiarly textured surfaces do lend themselves to the kind of rainstorms, cloudbanks, etc. that he alone can conjure. But Macpherson's investigations also extend to the human figure, and I think the best of these figure paintings are among his most appealing pieces.

To say that Macpherson's landscapes are primarily concerned with technique--with ways of putting paint on canvas--is not to imply that they aren't as much about land, sky and water. You could say the same thing about Monet and still be talking about haystacks. For these large canvases, Macpherson paints in acrylic often thinned down to watercolor-consistency. The consequent drips and drifts define their composition as much as the scene observed; technique, to an extent, makes the landscape.

The same kind of playful technique is evident in Macpherson's approach to the figure. But while some of the bathers, dancers and lovers seem to begin as flat fields of color that weirdly resolve into men and women, these paintings don't invite quite so close an inspection of the canvases' surfaces. The faceless, dreamlike, almost allegorical figures are too arresting to relinquish center stage even to Macpherson's bravura handling of paint.

Both landscapes and figurative work are well represented in the Dartmouth Street Gallery's retrospective. Among the loveliest and most whimsical are two paintings from Macpherson's ongoing series of people wearing unexpected objects on their heads. I've seen several of these appealing, mysterious pictures (there are also some sculptures), and my only disappointment was in not seeing more of them in the current show. Nevertheless, the two portraits of a little girl sporting a large shell, both shell and girl rendered in shell colors, are charming examples.

The earliest of the longtime Albuquerque resident's work on display at the gallery includes drawings and monotypes, as well as works in Macpherson's more familiar acrylic. The 20-year spread reveals an artist restlessly inventive, in several media, from the beginning.

--Jeffrey Lee

Angus Macpherson: Two Decades on Canvas runs at the Dartmouth Street Gallery through Oct. 31.

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