Bob works with watercolor on paper often at a scale that is beyond the norm. Viewing his images, you have to set aside limits and preconceptions. The work is large, precise, matte in surface and impactful.
The representation is so precise that there is never any ambiguity that we are looking at something. But there is an irony about its juxtaposition with something else. What is that other element and how in his creative spirit and imagination do they form visual confluence?
The irony is to defy logic but somehow create an image that is plausible with a stretch of the imagination. Unlike most representational work we get more than just what we see. There is something more and we are challenged to unravel that and come to grips with the whimsy and sly intentionality of the artist.
In a sense the works are visual equations but one plus one does not necessarily add up to two. The math of conventional reasoning is askew and this is the essence of the artist’s unique aesthetic.
From an art historical perspective there is a connection to surrealism. Surely the work is rooted in that modernist tradition. But reference to Magritte is not the Rosetta stone to deciphering these very contemporary American works. They are too droll and head on for such esoteric interpretation.
It’s more like what if you were driving along the Mass Pike and an enormous French carousel hovered above you. Morgan provides a compelling graphic representation of that arcane but somehow plausible possibility.
Another work “Belgian Seeder at Rock Field” seems almost possible. The large farm apparatus is elaborately rendered. But hold on a minute it is set before what appear to be an arrangement of Neolithic monoliths with the scale and shape of unmarked grave stones.
In “Under the Radar” a commercial jet plane appears to be approaching a landing over a long horizontal shed. There is seemingly no reason to question its verisimilitude other than the context of the artist’s oeuvre.
Its emblematic of the tension that the work creates between real and surreal or plausible and fantasy.
That equates to a sense of lively adventure and a bit of sleuthing when trying to delve into the psyche of the artist and his singular vision. This evokes a range of responses to the individual pieces. For some works we readily appreciate the superb skill of execution while other pieces evoke double and triple takes.
Most viewers will be content with the level of astute representation. Because what is seen appears to be real, the assumption is that it is simply a simulacrum. More often than not that's just not true. There is a playful sense of bait and switch as what we think we see indeed may not be.
It is yet another signifier of post modernism in which an artist takes a traditional approach to depiction, rendering and technique but with variations that flip it on its head.
It provocatively makes the work both immediately accessible and delightfully oblique.
Certain of the more abstract paintiers of the early to mid-twentieth century associated with sur-realism like Joan Miro and Paul Klee made images that seemed to mirror our own awareness drawing us into their impossible fictions. Morgan's images are stunning in their large scale, but are more importantly compelling for their sense of how they invite us to think them.
To succeed as a work of art there must be a progression both for the artist and viewers that takes us beyond perception. The works of Morgan evoke a growth to a new paradigm of representational painting where there is considerable thought about subject matter and rendering that is more than "retinal."
Morgan is an anachronism in today's art world. He seeks the same effect as the artists who appear at the Whitney Biennials - those who accept the challenge to cross the brink and express some self-validating ultimate in a hopefully outrageous and original language. Whereas the art community's favored seek shock to score with their sense-stunned public, Morgan sticks to the tried and true.
Each - the biennial contender and Morgan - aims at getting to us, one via overkill, the other in true-blue New England spirit, letting the viewer figure it out for himself. In today's art world, where thousands of new artists appear at the periphery of the international scene every month with aspirations of instant success, Morgan adds his own grain of sand to the growing dune. Cloaked in classical garb, the work requires a pause from zapping and deserves the effort of a second glance. For those who are willing to share his search, he takes aim at clarifying those obscure mysteries which make life so tantalizing