Roger Kizik: A swashbuckling, visceral quality that is as uneven as it is thrilling

Roger Kizik, “Root Guest House,” 1996, acrylic on canvas, 30 x 24″ 

Roger Kizik, “Devil’s Playground,” 2004, acrylic on canvas, 92 x 106″

In the Boston Globe, Sebastian Smee reports that Roger Kizik�s retrospective ‘Disparate Dialogue,’ at the New Bedford Art Museum is a crazy, hyperventilating, intensely likable show. Kizik is based in Dartmouth, has been a familiar presence on the New England art scene for more than 30 years, and worked for years as a preparator at the beleaguered Rose Art Museum.

“Call me particular, but colored toilet paper is not my thing. I just don�t like the idea. So it�s strange for me to have to report that a blue toilet roll is the subject of one of the most arresting paintings I�ve seen anywhere in months,” Smee writes. ‘”Roll,’is a big painting, and it�s perfectly square: 30 inches by 30 inches. The toilet roll in question rests on top of a metal toilet roll holder, to which the cardboard cylinder from the previous roll is still attached. There�s nothing else in the picture. What we see is essentially just a blue cylindrical shape casting a shadow against a light-orange ground. Those colors, blue on apricot, may not suggest the best of taste in interior decorating terms, but they sure do zing. That�s part of the pleasure. But so is the positioning of the roll on top of the holder.

“It�s odd, isn�t it? After all, a robustly proportioned and well-executed painting like this should surely, if it�s of a thing, be of an important thing. But this thing, besides being a humble toilet roll, suggests states of mind that seem at odds with propriety, deliberation, and other correlatives of ‘importance.’ Whoever put it there (cue huffing and puffing) was clearly too lazy or absent-minded to remove the old, empty tube and put the new roll in its proper place.

“How we think of such everyday failures, and how we reconcile them with the kind of refined aesthetic pleasure afforded by Kizik�s humming colors and deft paint handling, is up to us. But Kizik has – with a levity, skill, and conviction it�s hard not to admire – at least put the question before us. I like him for it.

“There are other paintings here that, amusingly, seem about as bad as painting gets. ‘Souvenir, Venezia,’ for instance, sets a seashell and a winged lion (representing Venice) against a vile yellow sky and desultory clouds. The effect is not only dismal, it�s inexplicably dismal. But somehow, works like this didn�t offend me. They reminded me that some kinds of talent have a swashbuckling, visceral quality that is as uneven as it is thrilling, that thrive precisely because they are prepared to risk backfiring.

Disparate Dialogue: A Roger Kizik Retrospective,” New Bedford Museum of Art, New Bedford, MA. Through January 17, 2010.

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