2008’s Little Bishop Wears the Dream Shirt (gouache and ink on paper) typifies the artist’s style
Raymond Uhlir’s triptych at And/Or Gallery is some of the most arresting imagery currently on display in Dallas. Influenced by the Saturday morning cartoons of his childhood and the 18th and 19th century paintings he discovered later, Uhlir’s colorful and meticulous style reminds me of Japanese anime but taken to the level of fine art.
Marked as a culture-maker, she is abandoned at birth. Her family, kneeling in prayer, seal their faith — as the 2009 series at And/Or is called — tells an enigmatic story that Uhlir’s artist’s statement hints has social and political implications.
In the first of the three pieces, a group of robed characters (who recur in Uhlir’s work) genuflect to a black-and-red-clad power atop a tall rock as birds hover. It appears the worshipers have surrendered their musical instruments. In the second, smaller piece, possibly a flashback, a cello player sits on a cloud. The triptych concludes with images that include a bandaged baby lying on the strings of a ghostly cello.
Uhlir, 29, grew up in Los Angeles and San Antonio and graduated from U-T in Austin with a BFA in studio art. He now lives in Goleta, Calif. I connected with him through Facebook, and he forwarded the following artist’s statement:
I grew up in the 1980’s during the heyday of Saturday morning cartoons. At the end of every week, from seven a.m. to noon, I sat glued to the living room T.V. enthralled by the continuing adventures of G.I. Joe or the Muppet Babies. I also read Richard Scary books, watched pseudo-prophetic apocalyptic movies like Mad Max, and played countless hours of video games. Together, these various media hold a powerful sway over my aesthetic sensibility and worldview.
On Sundays, my parents took me to church where I rolled matchbox cars down the cross lain upon the alter steps. I half listened to the stories of floods, massacres and salvation with an eye on the fruit punch waiting for the kids after Sunday school. As I grew a little older I became endlessly fascinated by the 18th and 19th century paintings at the LA County Museum of Art, and those in the art history books my mom kept from college.
Thematically, through the combination of these various influences from popular, sacred and historical culture, I create a personal mythology of allegorical characters. While the heroes of my weekend mornings reinforced established societal structure, my characters critique and question the hierarchical status quo of our society, the conflicts between religious belief and scientific fact, and Western consumptive attitudes. To this end, I construct my current work to resemble an amalgamation of the cartoons and art historical influences of my youth. Using gouache or enamel on paper and canvas, and a painstaking masking process, I endeavor to recreate the flat, seductive appearance of a cartoon cell married with the compositional complexity of a history painting. By combining these disparate styles of working, I attempt to expand the dialectal possibilities of painting for those of us who experienced our first tastes of visual culture in Technicolor motion.
Uhlir’s work is on display through Feb. 28
Image courtesy of the artist