Joseph Begnaud
10/2/10 12:10 PM

The night has inspired many an artist to create moody works awash in violets and navies, filled with shapes that float in and out of view, as they do in the real dark. Most famous of these are the “Nocturnes” created by James Abbott McNeill Whistler in the late 1800s, and every inky painting since then treads in their weighty footsteps. Joseph Begnaud’s recent series of oils, titled “Night Fictions,” is no exception, and he makes real efforts to rise to the challenge not just of Whistler but of the dark more generally—painting is hard enough with fully visible subjects. And this, of course, is the trick of the successful nocturne—to balance the nighttime play of visibility and invisibility, a task that Begnaud achieves best in “Winter Moon?,” which captures the mercurial quality of the sky on a cloudy, windy night, when the bright disk of the moon appears as a delayed surprise, and slight patches of pink suggest a conflagration of distant storm, setting sun and light pollution. Other works, in which Begnaud has included human and animal figures, are less successful: the slight cartoonishness of his figures, as well as their visual clarity, disrupts the profundity and mystery of the night. It’s almost as if someone turned on a flashlight…

—Lori Waxman
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