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Robert Lyall Flock's Paintings at Villa Maria

Robert Lyall Flock's work in the gallery at Villa Maria
Robert Lyell Flock's "Work II"
Robert Lyell Flock's "Port Saint Lucie II"


The current exhibit at the Villa Maria gallery comprises representative work from four distinct phases of the mature career of veteran local abstractionist painter Robert Lyall Flock. The show is entitled Work, which is what he called many of his paintings.

From the late 1980s are two large lands of unlikeness maps, oil on canvas, a little reminiscent of the intractable art of Clyfford Still. Fields of in one case blue-green, in the other orange, with jagged contrast areas poking through and breaking up the otherwise preponderant mood of uneasy composure, upsetting perforce serenity.

And from year 2000, four bravura oil stick and acrylics on thick paper scribble works. Dense, dark, overlay on overlay tornadoes of multicolors, amid contrast areas of rainbow ranks of discrete crayon lines, sometimes straight, sometimes wavy, and occasional strips or stripes of what looks like color-saturated paper tape. In three of the works the scribble tornadoes are central and predominant. In one case, more polite and refined separate color lines occupy the center, dispersing the heavy weather scribbling to the periphery. Like dissipating storm clouds.

Very different work the next year, 2001. Abstractionist still, but with more than a hint of subject matter. Two works from the artist’s Port de Lucie series. These are legible maps—not actually, but ideally—in distinct areas of different colors and contrasting patterns of fleck marks. And variously legible as geological—as land cut stratigraphic materials charts—and topographic surface maps. The look of stratigraphic charts—juxtapositions of different physical materials—but with a basic verticality not horizontality as to the arrangements. And with a fringe of what could be vegetation across the horizontal top of the depicted matter, between depicted matter and sky.

The final group consists of three large-scale works in thinned paint and broad-brush gestural wash strokes, each work in a single dominant color, a variant of a primary color, a slightly pale blue, a pinkish red, and orange-yellow. Seen from across the room, these look to be watered acrylics, while from close on, they resemble encaustics. They turn out to be in oil on canvas.

Unlike all the other works in the show, these paintings are not dated. In accord with a Matissean paradigm—the ideal of art as an armchair, but more essentially, art as ethereal, unadulterated work of the imagination, with minimal worldly fetters—this should be late work. Actually, according to exhibit curator Brian Duffy, it is early work, from the mid-1970s. Seeming to reverse the Matissean paradigm. Copious adventitious but unexpunged drip tracks of the generously applied thinned paint medium evoke the world metonomously through the effect of its fundamental and inexorable law of gravity.

Robert Lyall Flock has had a long and distinguished career as artist and art teacher in Western New York. Upon his return from service as a medic in the Korean War in 1952, he immediately began art studies at the Albright Art School. Later he earned a BFA degree from the University of Buffalo. He taught art in the Kenmore school system from 1960 to 1968, and then at Niagara County Community College until his retirement in 1988. His paintings have been included in numerous solo and group exhibitions, including several at the Albright-Knox and the Burchfield Penney art galleries.

This excellent show of superb work continues through October 25.

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