Local surrealism’s finest hour 

Maury Hurt and Grady Kimsey

Maury Hurt and Grady Kimsey
Through Jan. 30, 2011 at the Mennello Museum of American Art

900 E. Princeton St.



Two excellent local artists – Maury Hurt and Grady Kimsey – put to rest any questions about the vitality of our region’s creative talent. Surrealism haunts both artists’ works, with rich textures and colors camouflaging dark psychological spaces, and the show evokes a heavy mood leavened by dark humor.

Hurt’s work, in the front gallery, is a retrospective of his paintings that spans nearly two decades and multiple styles. His self-portraits, which show an unsmiling Hurt under dim, glowing light with piercing eyes, give way to exquisite allegorical figures in “The Room,” which features a liquid, bent-looking wooden floor that torques slowly back to a skull resting on a Victorian chaise, in rich ochres and reds. Around the corner, “Big Top” and “Circus” strip the lightness out of the subject: A majestic red-and-white striped tent, rendered from the interior and exterior, is huge and ominous; it dwarfs the 
elephants within.

Hurt’s other styles stray only slightly from his palette and brushy technique. A slice of Orlando is immortalized in diner scenes, made weirdly romantic by hot pinks and glassy surfaces reflected in faces and eyes. Here, glittery chrome is luminous and soft. In his “Apples in Silver Leaf” series the fruits float, throbbing with color, over actual silver leaf. Perhaps the preciousness of the metal stayed the painter’s hand from warming up the scene.

In the side gallery, Kimsey’s three-dimensional assemblages of iconic, dreamlike figures clad in colorful rags fill the room with a sense of creaking, melancholic determination. Their tiny, earnest faces twist this way and that, playing out private dramas; his paintings serve as dioramic backgrounds. In “The Meditator” a horned, shaman-like figure holding a mask gazes up from a de Chirico-like quarry. “Sycophant,” another archetype, is bejeweled, and his earthen baby face turns upward, seeking approval. The fascinating details of the old/young face, and the broken fence framing the figure, all but evoke his beseeching voice.

Worn table legs, doorknobs and other items whisper to the crowd. A corroded copper coaster is so seamlessly integrated – upcycled, if you will – into “Tuesday’s Chorus” that this, not its previous service, seems to be its ultimate destiny.

The works of both artists speak of contemporary humanity, but in mature tongues: Ignoring the dialect of our parlous times, the artists draw the viewer into an inner, dreamlike world of burning foxes (Hurt’s “White Fox”) and quarreling brothers (Kimsey’s “Sibling House”). Hurt seems most at home with surrealism in paintings such as “Alt 4,” which portrays a nun and a joker with symbolic Duchampian machine parts for feet. It is the overpowering subconscious tone of Kimsey’s tableaux, however, that reeks of relevance: souls in rags, misshapen, imperfect and often tragic, yet underlying it all is a sweet sense of connectedness.

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