Can art be effective as a tool for advocacy? California painter Josh Keyes clearly thinks so. His current show at OKOK Gallery wears its environmentalist heart on its sleeve, and the results, according to KUOW art critic Gary Faigin, are mixed. Gary joins us now with his comments.
The paintings of Josh Keyes stand out from the crowd of artists concerned with the despoiling of nature in two ways: first, by his spectacular technical facility, particularly as an animal artist; second, by his visualizing the struggle of man vs. nature as a sort of a free-standing, museum diorama.
Each of Keyes’s paintings - precise, deadpan acrylics with more than a passing nod to the world of science textbooks and wildlife illustration - shows the living world taken entirely out of its landscape context. Instead, the charismatic megafauna of the Pacific Northwest are arranged in a sort of terrarium, forced to cohabit a tiny block of soil or cement with an assortment of man- made irritants – wrecked cars, security cameras, litter, and graffiti.