Editor's note: The Wiegand Gallery at Notre Dame de Namur University provided source material to Resource Library Magazine for the following article and permission to reprint the essay from the exhibition's brochure. If you have questions or comments regarding the source material or essay, or if you wish to purchase the illustrated brochure, please contact the Wiegand Gallery directly through either this phone number or web address:


Foibles & Fantasies: The Paintings of Robert Chiarito and Patrick Morrison


An exhibition of figurative paintings by California artists Robert Chiarito and Patrick Morrison, Foibles & Fantasies: The Paintings of Robert Chiarito and Patrick Morrison will be shown at the Wiegand Gallery from September 12 through October 26, 2002. The opening reception is Sunday, September 29, 2 -4 pm. The gallery will be closed on October 18th and 19th.

Robert Chiarito is a painter and professor of Art at San Jose State University. His work has been exhibited nationally and internationally. He will be having a one-person exhibition in September at Galleria Jose Maria Velasco in Mexico City. He has also recently exhibited at the Ahknaton Gallery in Cairo, Egypt He has shown widely throughout California.

Patrick Morrison is a well-known Los Angeles painter. He has had one-person exhibitions at the Earl McGraff Gallery in Los Angeles as well as at the American Academy of Motion Pictures. His work is in the collections of many celebrity collectors such as Ben Kingsley, Dennis Hopper and Mick Jagger. He has shown widely in Europe as well.

There will be a six page brochure to accompany the exhibition with an essay by the Los Angeles painter Stephanie Sanchez.


The Paintings of Robert Chiarito and Patrick Morrison

by Stephanie Sanchez


The paintings of Patrick Morrison and Robert Chiarito give evidence of the vitality of the figurative tradition. Both are narrative painters who developed a distinctive expressionistic style. Chiarito is the humorist/satirist and Morrison the tragedian. Chiarito portrays himself as "every man," poking fun at the foibles of human nature: greed, hubris, martyrdom. Morrison paints the glossy barbarity of Los Angeles. His subjects, whether movie star or odalisque, are cast in a drama created in part by theatrical still life objects. The world is a stage upon which tragic and disturbing events take place.

It is more than a coincidence that both artists attended Stanford University, Morrison in the sixties and Chiarito the seventies. Exposure to the Bay Area figurative tradition of Diebenkorn, Weeks and Bishoff is a given. The mandate that the art student pay his dues and grapple with the human figure with humble pencil and charcoal stick served each of them well; they continue the practice to this day. Both share a belief in the viability of the process of painting to communicate despite myriad technological forms of expression practiced today by many artists.

An early interest in sign painting and sideshow banners suggest the format of Chiarito's series of 1991-2001. Banners and sign paintings were designed to advertise, combining text and occasionally crass attention-getting imagery. They were created by and for the man on the street, centuries before museums were established. Chiarito demonstrates his ambivalence about producing a precious art object in his choice of format.

Look for an abundance of art historical references and jokes by Chiarito. In The Return, a man in a cartoon-like sprawl is hurled off his moped, then plummets into Italian quattrocento landscape, exposing the fallen angel/ artist in a fumbled, ignominious return to his roots. No longer worshiped or admired, The Martyr is reduced to being just another spectacle in a sideshow. Chiarito paints himself this time as an absurd, grimacing St. Sebastian, head pierced by a toy-like arrow and hatchet. The artist mocks his/our sense of self importance while lampooning the convention of Renaissance paintings of the tortured Saint, standing erect, pierced by arrows too numerous to count, impossibly stoic, eyes rolled heavenward. Chiarito offers psychological awareness of the archetype (that we all carry traits of the martyr, which can present a dark side). The tragedy of St. Sebastian is deconstructed; in his place we are left with a self pitying wreck in need of psychotherapy. (left: Robert Chiarito, The Return, 1999, oil on canvas, 60 x 84 inches)

Patrick Morrison "grew up on cinema and pop music". Still life with TV depicts Rita Hayworth, larger than life, nearly bursting out of the TV screen. The objects in the foreground and on top of the TV add to the disorientation of place; what time of day is it, and exactly where are we, in what country? Clearly the early impact of seeing screen idols projected twenty feet high inside a movie theatre had a profound effect on Morrison's vision. The disorientation effected by manipulation of scale is a salient feature of the artist's work.

In The Sleeping Nude a woman poses as an odalisque in homage to Titian or Matisse. The space around her is ambiguous, is effected by swaths of drapery and curtains, concealing walls or floor. The "set" is awash in primary red and yellow, a Hans Hoffman-like abstraction if one blurs one's eyes. A Buddha in the foreground is at once a sacred object and a device unifying the composition, sending up a sinuous line of incense into the red center of the painting, in effect stabilizing it. The votive candle and maraca are Mexican, Buddha Chinese, TV and globe European or American, puppet Indonesian . . . the mixture of cultural references either adds to our understanding or contributes to our confusion. We are asked to consider whether objects have lost their potency due to mass distribution, or can we trust cultural references and find inspiration or consolation from them? The TV set in the upper corner of the room is turned on but unseen by the sleeping woman. Paradoxically, the news events projected in black and white on the TV seem more "real" than the interior in which it is placed. Since the woman is dreaming, her reality is the dream which we are not privy to. We only know we can see her and that she is unaware of us. Perhaps the entire scene is a manifestation of her dream? We are left with questions about the nature of reality and illusion; the characters in the paintings might be asking the same question themselves: is art imitating life or life imitating art in the startling world in which we find ourselves? (left: Patrick Morrison, The Sleeping Nude, 2001, oil on canvas, 67 x 57 inches)


Read more articles and essays concerning this institutional source by visiting the sub-index page for the Wiegand Gallery at Notre Dame de Namur University in Resource Library Magazine.

Search for more articles and essays on American art in Resource Library. See America's Distinguished Artists for biographical information on historic artists.

This page was originally published in 2002 in Resource Library Magazine. Please see Resource Library's Overview section for more information.

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