from Marinscope
Vibrant color, balance, many textured images, and the lyric movement of the dance artist Monjett Graham’s work.

Representing a ten-year retrospective of Graham’s best work, a current exhibit on display locally moves from his earlier almost flat surface paintings to the multi-layered mixed media collages he creates today – the animated, satirical, wildly clad series, the powerful abstractions of “Shiva”, “Power Lunch and “ Condominium”.

In the creative dissonance of Graham’s divergent styles and transitions, the viewer is offered a glimpse of modern art at its most eclectic and original – art that is light years removed from the clichés and pretensions encountered all too frequently, even in our leading galleries and museums.

Appropriately entitled “light and Rhythm, 1992” Graham’s latest collection reflects his lifelong preoccupation with music and dance, which began, he says in his Nebraska childhood.

“My father was a Jazz and Blues man. My mother was a classical pianist. Our home was always saturated with music of all kinds as far back as I can remember. For me it became the natural inspiration for expressing myself in my paintings,” Graham, recalled from his Sausalito studio.

That relationship between his love of music and the persona in his art was developed further still when Graham arrived in San Francisco and went to work for the San Francisco Opera Company as a scenic artist.

However, the evocative collages of “Music America” came much later, after his move thirteen year ago to Marin County. To create these collages, Graham juxtaposes found objects, metal, pieces of clothing; oil-based house paints producing three-dimensional images that step forward to the beat of a drum. In “Music Awards” a figure in “funky chicken” pose, guitar in hand smiles out from under an outlandish hat, his white glove and black boot protruding from the canvas. The “Rap Saxophone” player moves to a 19th century “hoedown” – the music almost audible. These pieces represent, essentially, the extroverted expressions of the artist. They evoke from the viewer a joyous amusement.

It is from Graham’s other work, intense urban abstractions, that the artist’s deeper vision, the complex inner music emerges. The outline of buildings, the visual suggestion of cities is present, but we notice this only in passing. It is the inner rhythm of the city that explodes in the color, the movement, the juxtaposition of materials, and the painted motion that the artist has achieved. Through the monochromatic red on red “Shiva”, (the strongest painting in the collection), an archetypal energy moves with a pulsating beat. It is not the figurative Shiva, not the Lord of the Dance that appears. It is the dance itself, as novelist, Paul Scott described, “…in a circle of cosmic fire, the circle of creation and destruction, of dark and light and wholeness.”
Monjett Graham’s “Light and Rhythm 1992” is now on exhibit through March 15 at the Gallery Piazza, 819 Bridgeway, Sausalito.

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