Splattered Radiance

Michael Hogan

It’s been two years since abstract artist Ulick Mahoney has shown his art to the world. That drought ends on Jan. 29 in UMass Boston’s Harbor Art Gallery.

In his 35 years as a renowned and respected artist, Mahoney has watched the world change around him. It is these changes, both personal and impersonal, that have fueled his work for so long. “In the poverty of modern life, our culture is ravaged by events that are out of our control. As a painter of 35 years I have seen enough history to fill an encyclopedia,” Mahoney writes on his website.

It was his “unabated anger over the Vietnam War and the social revolution of the late 1960’s and early 1970’s” that sparked the artistic conflagration within him. For nearly 40 years he has managed to produce an astounding number of thought provoking works, close to 200 in the relatively short time since his last showing.

Mahoney’s work is the kind that the word “abstract” was made for-frenzied and often seemingly chaotic. As is often the case with abstract, Mahoney’s brilliance is not in the mastery of a regimented technique, but in his ability to translate guttural emotion into acrylic paint, marble dust and sand.

The works on display in the Harbor Gallery from Jan. 29 through Feb. 20 represent two different visual styles. Many of the paintings, from an earlier time in these last two years of work, scream for comparison to one of the masters of the abstract form, Jackson Pollock. A collection of collages featuring diversely colored paint splattered on canvas, these older works seem to bleed a rainbow of unfiltered emotion. The paintings are multidimensional in both meaning and in physicality. Some seem to come from happier times while others have a tortured feel to them. Often times paint has piled upon paint, creating minuscule mountain ranges of tint, infinitesimal peaks and valleys of color that stretch across the surface.

Along with these are some later works that take a more disciplined approach to the translation of feeling into visual confrontation. These works utilize geometric shapes and patterns that are nowhere to be found in the earlier works. The uniform lines and shapes of these more recent selections evoke a more calming array of emotions. While the earlier ones seem angrier and more frustrated, these are more restricted and ordered.

Overall, the exhibition is a chance to see true art at its best. Emotionally demanding as well as internally contemplative, Mahoney’s works are only the beginning of what is sure to be a great semester at UMB’s student-run Harbor Gallery.

The Triumph of Abstraction

Artist: Ulick MahoneyWhen: Jan. 29 – Feb. 20Where: Harbor Art Gallery, McCormack Hall, 1st Floor Admission: Free