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Review: Linda Blackburn at Artspace 111

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Computers Down Linda Blackburn

Computers Down by Linda Blackburn

 Guest blogger Matthew Bourbon is an artist and associate professor in the College of Visual Arts and Design at UNT. He brings this review from Artspace 111 in Ft. Worth. – Anne Bothwell

North Texas artist Linda Blackburn’s exhibition, at the recently renovated Artspace 111, is awash in nostalgia.  Blackburn’s art in this show entitled The Thing From Another World suggests a range of inexplicable and campy stories that one might find in b-movies, or Saturday matinee adventure films from the 1940′s. 

Several recurring themes can be seen in the show, including arctic exploration, extraterrestrial mysteries and ancient seafaring.  Many of the best paintings depict a passel of clunky computers rolling about on functional wheels. The cartoon computers are unassuming and slightly human; they appear as absurd hybrids caught between main-frame boxiness and first generation robots.  In Computers Down (above), we see a graveyard of upturned computers stuck in an icy expanse.  Near the top of the painting a roughly painted stick-figure of a person lies prone in the cold.  Something has gone wrong, yet several of the computers remain upright.  What this painted story actually describes is opaque, yet our interest is piqued. 

While the artist’s many subjects never coalesce into a clearly connected narrative, each painting shares an almost naïve and hopeful certitude in the nature of exploration.  The world Blackburn creates is decidedly not our present moment-but it is familiar as a remembrance of a time in our cultural history when the promise of utopian technology was almost believable.

Interestingly, the manner in which the artist makes her paintings adds to this sense of hopeful innocence.  Blackburn stylizes the people she portrays into near cartoon simplicity.  In an even more abbreviated technique, she describes the landscapes with a nonchalant paint application that is aptly mixed with a concrete rendering of space and confident drawing flair.  The small figures Blackburn portrays feel almost like they are toy people placed in a toy world. 

 Green Bottle by Linda Blackburn

Green Bottle by Linda Blackburn

Still, while the paintings are filled with a television version of intrigue, the characters in her art appear resigned to unrewarded acts of heroism in the face of an unforgiving territory. Something poignant is underneath all the obvious humor and playful enigma of Blackburn’s art.  In each desolate and rocky landscape that the artist envisions, the protagonists are imbued with a sense of industry.  Whatever the outcome, these individuals are too busy plying their trades and fulfilling their unnamed tasks to worry over the sometimes dire outcomes that might await them.