Brooklyn-based painter and Pratt Institute faculty member Nat Meade paints formally exploratory portraits that dissect current and traditional masculine tropes and affectations. His latest show at Froelick Gallery, All Arounders, suggests in its title a luckless amateur baseball team or a weekend-warrior motorcycle gang. Meade's carved-block men sport stalactite-like beards, huge tinted sunglasses, they puff dramatic cigarette smoke clouds with faux-screen idol hand-to-mouth gestures. Still, he imbues them with an appealing vulnerability when he hides them, bashfully, behind foliage, festoons their hairy cheeks with gemlike tears, or submerges them in rising water- perhaps the accumulation of those tears. We can almost pity their lack of self reflection.
Reduced to a rough collection of forms, Meade also employs these characters as fertile ground for
compositional and formal exploration- the play of light across surfaces, the push and pull of his intense, unexpected color palette, his varied and assured brushwork are the result of an involved process of making several studies of each composition, refining, winnowing, reducing along the way- approaching completion only to scrape down to the rough surface (linen, hemp or jute here) and rebuild layer upon layer, which imbues his All Arounders with a complexity and gravitas which transcends their seeming cartoonishness.