Art in Review; Chuck Connelly

Published: October 11, 2002

An Expressionist without angst, Chuck Connelly paints with infectious exuberance. Mr. Connelly has a penchant for wild allegorical narratives, and there’s a fine example in this exhibition, a picture of Noah’s Ark breaking up in a storm with little animals spilling out everywhere, reflecting, perhaps, on the catastrophic events of last year. But the best parts of the exhibition are pictures having to do with the artist’s recent move to Philadelphia. In these, headlong painterly urgency animates the homey facts of his new neighborhood: Victorian houses, jumbled backyards, verdant foliage and explosive flowers. A suite of four canvases extending over 20 feet across the wall, each filled edge to edge with leaves, vines, grass and weeds, is like a conference call among van Gogh, Soutine and Pollock.

There are moments when one feels that some editorial restraint would be in order, as in a large, smeary abstraction called “The Deluge” that looks as if the artist wiped out the start of something with turpentine and then decided he liked it that way. Topical paintings with poetry scrawled over generic townscapes – “Enron Christmas,” for example – might better have been left in the studio, too. But it seems churlish to quibble in the face of Mr. Connelly’s adventurous generosity of spirit.

—Ken Johnson