"Natural Forces" - Catalog Essay by ARTnews contributor Richard Speer -
“Letting the River Flow”
Essay by Richard Speer
With tenacity and invention, artist Barry Mack has built a career on the quest to capture transcendent states. The moment of glorious, blinding epiphany—whether mystical or psychological—intrigues Mack and has long fueled his creative explorations. Working in photography, digital media, and, most prominently, acrylic paint, he has deployed symbolist imagery and motifs culled from myth, geometry, and the collective unconscious, all in the search to visually approximate the inapproximable.
In the line of Caravaggio, Rembrandt, and Turner, Mack uses the drama of light to reach out and touch unknowable realms of Platonic ether.
Despite his agility in pivoting between media and modes, never before has Barry Mack given himself over so completely to the spontaneous interaction of materials with the intuition of the painterly gesture. In Natural Forces he allows these elements to play their own duet, with himself an unseen conductor, marrying muse and mind in dynamic harmony. The painter’s friend, artist Astrid Fitzgerald, recently remarked on the new series with spot-on insight. In loosening his grip but retaining his focus, she intuited, Mack has embraced an age-old dictum: “Don’t push the river—it flows by itself.”
—Richard Speer is a contributing critic at ARTnews and is Visual Arts Critic at Willamette Week, the Pulitzer Prize-winning alternative newsweekly in Portland, Oregon. The author of the biography “Matt Lamb: The Art of Success” (John Wiley & Sons, 2005), he is also a contributor to Newsweek, The Los Angeles Times, The Sacramento News & Review, Salon, and Opera News. For more information, visit www.RichardSpeer.com.