The Walter Darby Bannard Archive

Hollis Jeffcoat (2005)

Essay for exhibit of Jeffcoat paintings at the C.A.S. Gallery, University of Miami, September 20 - October 14, 2005.

Hollis Jeffcoat studied at The Kansas City Art institute and the New York Studio School and with Andrew Forge, Phillip Guston and George McNeill. She also apprenticed with Joan Mitchell and Elaine de Kooning. Traces of these artists can be seen in her work. She has lived, worked and taught in Canada and France as well as the United States and had her own school in Naples, Florida, before moving recently to New York.

Although this exhibit of oil paintings is a retrospective of sorts, over half of the pictures are from the last two years. I went through the available paintings and chose what came to my eye as the best. The pictures here are all first-rate, in my opinion, but recently she has made some changes which bring her art to the level of the best painting being done anywhere.

Jeffcoat is squarely in the tradition of painterly abstract oil painting, densely brushed pictures with overtones of landscape, especially early on. In time she evolved her picture away from referential forms with hints of illusionist depth to a flatter, more "forward" surface, often set on a diagonal, crowded with fresh color and spirited traceries of line released from obligations of definition and enclosure.

In the last two years her painting has changed again, bringing back singular shapes no longer in landscape format: less illusionist, more congealed, less "stroked," the colors less bright but still exuding color intensity. This has been a thread through Jeffcoat's art, coming out now and then in pictures like the wonderful Bourn III, 1997 with its coarse surface, thick, folded lines and pervading greyed reds. It has reappeared recently, full blown, in pictures like Traveler II, Traveler V and Traveler VIII, all from 2005.

The new pictures, at their best, "digest" line, color and shape, as if the elements turn in on themselves and compromise their identity. They gather enough to insinuate figure-ground, but that distinction is made elusive by the fudged edges, lack of modeling, the random bits scattered around the "ground" and the reluctance of line and shape to coalesce into a clear image. Many of the clustered configurations have a vague bird-like character which may merely be characteristic formations arising from Jeffcoat's new habit of compressing the once freewheeling elements of the picture, "bagging" them, causing them to look as if they are fighting their confinement. This constriction is the agency for the revelation of unresolved tension that helps make these pictures so good.

It is a pleasure to see work like this in these barren Postmodernist times. Enjoy it. It is the real thing.