The faces loom so large, staring at me, at each other, at themselves. It's a big crowd.
There is a grainy quality to the paper that reminds me of those portable projection screens my parents used for slideshows. The words, “film noir,” keep repeating in my mind as I wonder whether it is the lighting, the size, or the black and white drama of these portraits that trick me into thinking I am watching a movie.
Thick layers of blackest charcoal take on sculptural qualities. In other areas, the charcoal becomes a brownish smear that is almost transparent. The people in these drawings have a familiarity about them that begs for recognition, but somehow their true identity stays just beyond my grasp. Is that a real actor? An historical figure? Some famous person I simply can’t recall? These thoughts churn as I stand in the middle of this room trying to orient myself. And yet, despite the uniforms, the hairstyles, the hats, the details, all of which seem so particular, there is a superficiality, a smoothing, that strips these beings from reality and firmly places them in the realm of the un-real. These are spirits that have sprung from some forgotten time or place and demanded presence.
Bas Louter’s large-scale charcoal drawings are about distance and intimacy, intensity and coolness. Hung in fette’s gallery, a domestic space with beautiful low ceilings, nice moldings and great wood floors, Louter’s portraits engulf and embrace at the same time. One can easily imagine how well they would hang in a home with large open spaces and plenty of distance to take in the power and elegance of these psychological explorations. My particular favorite, a gorgeous woman with feathered headdress, is quixotic and alluring. I could easily fall in love.
Bas Louter lives and works in Amsterdam. His show at fette's gallery runs through April 7. More info: 310-559-7733