Robert Sean Coons’ oil paintings comment on the paradoxes that lie in the subliminal areas of the human mind: love and war; or beauty and obscenity. When approached head-on, the canvases appear to be simply paintings of WW II planes, Koi fish, or butterflies in repeated, motif style. When you move to one side, however, you see that erotic images actually lie underneath the seemingly straight forward frontal images: a nude woman, two women kissing, and so on. “The tough thing is, if the works successful; no one knows it is.” Coons says with a laugh.
Born and raised in Northern California, Coons received his BFA at The Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, CA. and has had 4 one-man shows with Robert Berman Gallery. Among Robert’s prominent patrons is the legendary pop artist Ed Ruscha, who owns several Coons originals.
Coons explains his process in simple terms: “I’m trying to hide something, so it should be taboo. If I’m hiding a puppy in the background, the question is why? But nudity or erotica in many places is still taboo. “I paint what turns me on, I love getting peoples reactions when they realize that there are nude women “hiding” in the background, the emotional reaction is what I want.”
Robert Sean Coons technically adept realist oil paintings were the pick of Bergamots collective September display, and appeared to be a comment on themes of love and war. The 34 year old artist and former Art Center student encourages viewers to seek out their hidden dimensions through twelve works. Coons’ catalogue drew an introductory quote from Martin Puryear, ‘The strongest work for me embodies contradiction, which allows for emotional tension and the ability to contain opposed ideas.’ His paradoxical show definitely followed suit. Coons leaves the door open for discovery and interpretation, but that which lies below the surface is not that easy to decipher, and perhaps, even more difficult to reconcile. His paintings unite objects from the vernacular with a sinuous backdrop. The images in the foreground act a diversion from something that lies just beyond our reach.
Varying in sizes, they were produced in repeat motif style, including rows of fishing lures, squadrons of WW II-style bombers and fighter planes, schools of fish, and swarms of insects. An immediate glance of the grouped objects elicited a literal response, through hovering in the foreground appeared to be a series of erotic subliminal images: two women kissing, woman’s bodies, and more. Does heterosexual erotica constitute something thematically synonymous with notions of peace? Perhaps not, though I was satisfied that the appeal of Coons’ dexterous technical hand was enhanced by his audacious wit.
dArt international Fall 2002