Danny Rolph offers us a hint of the future to come, in nine major paintings, acrylic on canvas, all completed this year or last. It is a utopian future, airy, bright, with open spaces, colorful, and filled with vibrant energy.
"Paradiso" might have been called Dragster as well, as there are three paintings - Dragster 2, Dragster 4 and Dragster 5 - that reveal Rolph's fondness for high velocity. Dragster 5 may be the most powerful in the exhibition, dazzling with vivid colors. Luscious red lips reminiscent of Marilyn Monroe entice at bottom left, suggesting sensuality, or perhaps the reward for a victory. Despite this, I sensed the existence of a laboratory, testing the frontiers of scientific technology. Either way, it is a delicious ferment.
Dragster 2 is complex (they all are), and is perhaps most directly suggestive of roads. I felt a sense of being drawn into a vortex. In Dragster 4 two teal-colored flat planes are centrally-located and dominate, competing with a dark blue irregular blob-shaped image entering from bottom right. This seems to have more perspective, and gives the impression of the various elements floating in space.
Two paintings, Paradiso 3 and Paradiso 7, provide the title of the exhibition. Paradiso 3 has a festival feeling, a holiday party with decorations strung on a line, light-hearted, even gay. Paradiso 7 consists of two panels providing one image, an accelerating arrow leading left. We sense that something important lies ahead, but know not what it is, an enigma.
Enterprise 18 has the most formed of Rolph's utopian visions, as though the whirligig of competing forces had slowed, and jelled into a civilization. Central here is a distinct image of a pyramid, multi-colored in tiers. Through what may be a window is a view of clear blue skies. The painting is cheerful and inviting, but there is a lingering question: is the pyramid a reminder that even Utopia will have its day and someday be gone, buried in the mists of antiquity?
Version consists of multi-panels, horizontal but one image. It is a splash of the future to come, as yet unformed, challenging. There is a luscious female upper lip at the central bottom, but are the unseen teeth biting into something? There is a jagged white edge at the right - is it dangerous?
Enterprise 15 is from a formed world, a fan overhead, perhaps an office chair. There is a large blue background image, which could be a ship carrying cargo, and, yes, an American flag. I felt this was part of a larger world, a world of commerce and finance, and that the artist here was giving us but a glimpse of it.
Most of these paintings are large, 37" by 63" being representative, but Rolph also provides 16 smaller paintings, 10" by 14" each, and priced commensurately. In all his work here, Rolph has displayed a variety of invention, and color aplenty to match his rich imagination.
Paradiso continues through November 15 at the Barbara Davis Gallery, 4411 Montrose, open Tuesdays through Fridays, 10:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., and Saturdays 11 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., 713-520-9200, barbaradavisgallery.com.
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