“Argh”, “Good Grief” & the Artist Currently Known as James Vogler

February 13, 2020
written by Elizabeth Spadea
for Ellenbogen Gallery, Manchester Center, VT

"Argh" by James Vogler; Oil, Charcoal, Enamel on Canvas (2019), (W) 30” x (H) 30”

Chaos unfolds on the canvases of James Vogler. His dramatic use of figurative line fused with a base of muffled neutrals creates a complicated harmony which extends beyond the edge of the canvas.

Unfolding on top of each other the mosh-pit of marks make up a series of curiously ambiguous characters. As they dance around the canvas, they exude energy, light and color. The congested scenes in ‘Good Grief/Good Grief 2’ and ‘Argh’ highlight depth through color choice. Pronounced strokes of black charcoal separate the plethora of oil-based colors. As Vogler re-imagines space through his complicated expression of color, he remains true to his initial artistic curiosity revolving around an observed study of color and light.


Automatic Drawing (1924) by Andre Masson; ink on paper, in the collection of MoMAAutomatic Drawing (1924) by Andre Masson; ink on paper, in the collection of MoMA (Left)

Artist Andre Masson, best known for his series of drawings, explored surrealist principles through his automatistic study of art. Fluid and expressive, he surrendered control of his materials and allowed his unconscious mind to command the movement of his hands. Highlighted in his work ‘Automatic Drawing’ (1921), Masson demonstrated freedom of line and figurative marks beyond his conscious mind. Masson drifted away from the surrealist movement on the basis of their theoretical exaggeration enforcing dogmatic beliefs.

In a similar way to Masson, Vogler channels an avant-garde style throughout his work. Potentially referencing the colorful works derived from the CoBrA Art Movement (read this fascinating story published by Christies), the lack of rigid forms, brash lines and softer lines play on the canvas. Defined by a strong emotional response to society, the CoBrA Movement was built by a group of artists energized by the ideas of rebellion. Karel Appel, one of the CoBrA and in his work “Amorous Dancers” one could imagine these dancers joyously crossing over onto a canvas painted by James Vogler in this current show, to dance through the night with Vogler’s creatures and characters.

“Amorous Dance” (1955) by Karel Appel; Oil on Canvas

“Amorous Dance” (1955) by Karel Appel; Oil on Canvas (Right)

Voglers 'lack-of-structure’ structure approach eventually builds a series of very expressive works of art, which reinforce the exploration of abstract art itself. Through a learning curve of hands-on experimentation, Vogler seems to challenge himself with each of his canvases, consuming information and pouring it out as finished works. Continuous and powerful marks overlap and dominate while care is given to each stroke. Spontaneous and energetic, each work steers the audience through its complex narrative. Moments, past and present are explored within each. Along the lines of Basquiat and even Keith Haring, Vogler’s fast-pace art creates the illusion of vibrancy, boldness and movement.

Good Grief / Good Grief 2 by James Vogler; Oil, Charcoal, Enamel on Canvas (2019), 30” x 30” each.

In an attempt to see the work from a different perspective, the audience may consider seeing the black marks which exist in-between the colorful blocks as space, empty space. From this new viewpoint, it appears as though the segments of color are protruding through space in a three-dimensional way. Considering his works are a personal reflection of the world, past and present (including a nostalgic love of cartoons from the 1950s), Vogler may therefore be challenging the perception of space within his work while emphasizing the idea of fluidity and movement across the canvas or over time. He might be mimicking his own memory-experience and having fun with a personal narrative raging within his subconscious.

See all available art by James Vogler HERE.

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