On the other side of downtown, at Walker Fine Art, is the eponymous solo Peter Illig, featuring a recent set of paintings by this longtime Colorado artist. Illig has not exhibited a new body of work for more than four years, so this show shouldn’t be missed.
The paintings here are about Illig’s life, at least broadly speaking, but as is usual for him, there’s a decidedly retro quality to them, and they appear to be set in a time before he was born. That’s partly because he often uses old found photos for inspiration. Though Illig also works with live models, even the pieces based on them seem to hark back to an earlier period.
The paintings are mostly monochromes, and many feature a main image coupled with a smaller, secondary one. In “Epistemology,” for instance, Illig has rendered in a grayish purple a man in a wide-lapel jacket and tie who appears to be feeling his way toward the viewer. He is unable to see because he is blindfolded. Illig told me that he saw the man as himself, trying to feel his way in the art world. Up in the right corner of the painting is a small rectangle in which there are depictions of three open books that appear to be tumbling to the ground. There are several other paintings with blindfolded figures, as well. Their existence adds an enigmatic quality to the portraits, and the idea that the subjects are sightless is an important narrative component.
Despite the fact that abstraction and even conceptualism were meant to supplant realism over a century ago, the realist ethos is still clearly relevant in the 21st century. It’s amazing when you think about it.
Michael Paglia, Westword, March 2015