“Sexy” covers a lot of territory. Of course, as a judgment call on fashion or some earthy bod’s details, it’s all in the eye of the beholder. In the art world, sexy work could mean anything from thick, wet paint to penetrating concepts to the most common, horny clichés. Detroit painter Glenn Barr (the subject of a show opening Saturday at CPop) has been around long enough to personally redefine the idea in both familiar and unexpected ways. And it’s the latter — along with a searching painterly touch — that make him stand out from those who merely obsess.
“The pieces aren’t as loud as they used to be,” says Barr in his uptown studio. “They’re getting a little more introspective, and more surrealist.”
Not one to settle into the derivative shtick that “sexy” often involves, Barr has always dispelled doubts about the seriousness of his pop approach. Moving from one project to another within a field that not long ago was still referred to as “commercial art,” Barr has made libidinal images and the satirical commentary they allow him into a terrain where he constantly challenges himself as an artist.
“Lately I’ve discovered gold and gray,” Barr offers in response to recent comments on the darkness of his palette. The somber lighting of his last show, with its public tragedies and private manias, continues to gather dire clouds in a work such as “Pandora” (pictured) which figures dramatically in the new installation. The figure of “woman” here leans against (or emerges from) a “pillar of darkness” with a willfulness that combines the erotic, the dramatic and the comic. In fact, it’s the impossibility of finally deciding between all these ambiguous moods that makes the piece work so insidiously and with the power of a fetish.
Barr, like his paintings, just won’t let go. He joins New York artist David Sandlin in “Cortex of Desire,” opening 6-10:30 p.m., Saturday at CPop Gallery, 4160 Woodward, Detroit. Also on view are the nervy, sensual photographs of frequent MT contributor Angie Baan. Call 313-833-9901.George Tysh is the Metro Times arts editor. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org