I first heard of Douglas' work from reading my favorite blog "Two Coats of Paint" by painter and professor Sharon Butler (who by the way was guest gallerist at Pocket Utopia on Saturday). You can read the original blog post from 2010 at http://www.twocoatsofpaint.com/2010/06/doulas-florians-own-kind-of-big.html.
Douglas recently had a solo show of paintings that ended at BravinLee in Chelsea on May 5th. The show was titled "Dawn Thieves". The size of the gallery (which is medium to small) and the size of Florian's paintings complimented each other. There seemed to be approximately 30 works (and I should add that only a few of the images of his work that I posted here are from that show). Of those paintings not all of them I connected to... but the works that I did connect to, I loved. I think his best works contain some kind of central shape or form. The image above is one of my favorite works of Florian's. The three pink shapes each with rough textured edges immediately draws me into the work. I can almost feel the surface texture of the painting with my eye. Then the semi-rectangular blue forms move my eye from corner to corner and the neutral gray background with choppy red patches slowly comes to the fore. The notch missing from the upper left hand side is a nice surprise... no he's not playing around with the odd shaped canvases that Elizabeth Murray does... instead, that missing corner is a subtlety that doesn't distract but rather compliments the rest of the work by mimicking the blue shapes. The many elements of this composition function as a whole while retaining their uniqueness; every mark and color has its place... nothing is unnecessary.
Roberta Smith, NY Times art critic, described his paintings as "intensely worked — painted, rubbed, drawn on, scraped, with added bits of collage and painted paper. Some are so distressed they appear brittle and stiff, as if painted on ultra-thin sheets of metal. Others might almost have been left out in the rain or used as flooring. In any event, many of these works convey an imposing compression of time and attention without ever getting precious or obsessive about it." As a side note: I often ponder the concept of authenticity in art... after reading Roberta Smith's description above I realized that, in part, what gives a work of art a sense of authenticity (especially in relation to Outsider Art or Naive Art) is the lack of preciousness explicit in the work. When an artist is motivated by a vision or process of creating the work and doesn't get hung up on technical deftness of the medium the sincerity of the artist's intent drives the piece.
Back to Douglas Florian... all or most of the pieces that did not interest me had one or two thing in common... either they were all over compositions with little or no focal point or they were not as layered and textured as some of his other work. I suppose for an artist like Douglas knowing when to finish could be difficult. His strongest pieces are those that have so much life to them... when you can't tell weather the paint on the canvas is the last layer he added or the first layered he started with. Those works are most powerful.
When I first visited Douglas Florian's website (douglasflorian.com) a few years back I read his artist statement and refer it to my friends when they're writing their own. Check it out...
My drawings are abstract regressionist. They are old but behave like little children.
My drawings are bottle-fed and battle-torn, drawn from the natural and unnatural.
My drawings are homespun hand-me-downs, hands-on and hands-off.
My drawings run in herds, bumping into each other in sequences and consequences, in planned and unplanned obsolescence.
My drawings are music inspired by muses, amusing to muse upon. They are mosaic, and Mosaic, like Moses drawn out of water and drawn with water, but never watered down.
My drawings sing praises and praise singing.
My drawings are movingly still, but still moving, emotional notions about motion, configurations of constellations.
My drawings are sexual and asexual, gestural busybodies, inert and inertial.
My drawings are inaction paintings, made in haste, but never hastily made.
My drawings are light fast and fastidiously light.
My drawings are both drawn and withdrawn. They collect their own thoughts and have a mind of their own.
My drawings are importune and impolite. They don't mind their mannerisms and are temper tantric.
In my drawings form follows dysfunction and function follows friction. My drawings rub me the wrong way.
My drawings are of the body and out-of-body, mindfully mindless.
My drawings are Kabbalah-ready. They daven on the wall, gently swaying back and forth to the rhythm of my rivers.
My drawings are bound in an unbound book, binding and bounding to and fro and fro and to.
My drawings reveal and conceal. They are lost and found and lost again.
My drawings are sight-specific, premature and post-horrific.
My drawings are cut and pasted, posted on a wall. They think big but talk small.
My drawings are modest in size, and immodest in scale.