Marlow Rodale

Marlow Rodale met me at his Banana Factory studio to discuss new paintings and catch up on recent art projects

by Elizabeth Johnson

Marlow Rodale met me at his Banana Factory studio to discuss new paintings and catch up on recent art projects. We first met in 2012 in Allentown when we were paired together by Soft Machine Gallerist Eva Di Orio as we are both artists who paint conceptual, imaginary spaces. Marlow’s part of the exhibit was called Neofuturism, and his current work employs the same elements he used then: transparency, layering, architectural forms and circuit-board-like, parallel lines. His work is rooted in Cubism and Futurism, as well as the sleek Bauhaus or International styles of architecture.

The paintings are brightly colored, anxious with activity, and devoid of figures. He situates the viewer in a space that feels empty, yet it’s walled in by painterly information, and occasionally studded with 3-D modular forms. I focus on Rodale’s vibrant color, paint drips, scraped areas, graphic details and masses of squares or rectangles temporarily, I am compelled to study one unrelated detail after another. The work triggers associations with vertigo, speed, travel, technology and

restlessness, themes that have been linked with Futurism since the 1930s. The work makes me hyperaware of movement and time passing, and his markers of frenetic change seem frozen in time on canvas. Oddly, the compositions spur me to rush ahead and excavate a sketchy future even as my footing in the present is very uncertain. I take away a mixed message from the work: “Stay!” and “Run!” are both viable choices, which is the same as stepping back for a broad perspective of these extreme opposites, and doing so creates a sense of resolution.

Gates of Ryhleh, 2011, reminds me of the Star Wars movie trilogy of the 80s, and the then-new thrill of zooming into a cold, alien, futuristic world rendered so cleanly and simply like interlocking leggos. Rodale divides up forms, bevels corners and modulates the color and tone of planes as coolly and systematically as a computer animator. While studying the shift from light to dark on the white “L” shaped plane of Gates of Rhyleh, I simultaneously register that the entire “L” shaped form is tilting in space; so, I’m divided: Is light falling on the form or is this form physically colored in a gradated way? It’s not clear which is the case. And just as I know that computer animation is so much more sophisticated today, yet prefer the older, ham-handed style, I admire Rodale’s failure to have his planes and forms act in lockstep. Contrasting Marlow’s paintings with artist Al Held’s Hard-edged abstractions qualifies Marlow’s disjointed way of relating 2-D and 3-D, since Held upholds consistent rules of perspective. Rodale’s unfussy drafting style undermines the Hard-edged tradition of clearly relating form to surface and injects fallibility into the arch-perfectionist trade of architectural drafting.

Rodale has exhibited recently in “Eleven,” at Our Garage Space Gallery in Easton, and in Manufactured Consent, at the Fowler Center of Northampton Community College. He was the Featured Artist in March 2013 at the Banana Factory and showed in Never Accept Art from Strangers at New Vox Gallery in 2011 in Bethlehem. He received his B.F.A. with painting concentration from Kutztown University in 2009.

On the way out of Marlow’s studio I pass Isolationism, 2010, which contrasts bright cadmium oranges and reds against the greyest, most subdued Prussian blue background, and a group of Robert DeLaunay-esque circle paintings mask deep space with many layers of beauty. Recalling how the Bauhaus artists esteemed beauty as it related to function, praising the absence of ornamentation, and how Futurism compresses time into an instant, I think how Marlow’s work does just the opposite. He makes simple things complicated, thwarts the rules of drawing, and meanders through endless deep space laying a path of fantastic color. Instead of streamlining and simplifying, Rodale makes “empty” out of “busy”.



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