Barry Buxkamper at Belmont University
by Joe Nolan
Barry Buxkamper’s Inside Out/Outside In at Belmont University’s Leu Art Gallery is two shows in one: It’s an exhibition of compelling, sculptural sketch collages as well as a display of large, detailed narrative paintings. The studies serve as an illuminating primer for the rest of the show, previewing elements that emerge in full form in Buxkamper’s finished work. The paintings themselves are like jewel boxes of detailed story scenes that compete for the viewer’s eye on the various planes Buxkamper implies through the painted sectioning of his surfaces as well as the actual shapes he cuts into his free-hanging canvases.
In the lobby outside of the gallery entrance, Buxkamper is displaying colorful, sculptural collections of sheets of paper decorated with digital prints and pencil drawings—gathered in bunches and push-pinned to the walls. We’ve all seen artists create similar process-revealing presentations, but I can’t recall seeing anything like this alongside Buxkamper’s perfectly precise paintings. The raw presence of these studies rings a harsh note that only amplifies the intricate music of the paintings in the gallery.
Of a number of Buxkamper’s signature shaped canvases, I was drawn to Looking Down the Front of His Pants. Luckily, I don’t feel like I have to address the Freudian implications of this choice to write a bit about why I like this painting. In it, a balding businessman is painted from above holding open the fly of his dress pants. While we don’t see anything beyond the slight bulging at the belly of his dress shirt, he is surrounded by visual vignettes in comic book dialog bubbles that show us the revealed anatomy of the male sexual and urinary systems juxtaposed against the silhouettes of burned-out buildings and flaming battleships. A scrolling banner near the man’s shiny brown dress shoes reads “VANITAS.” Indeed.
Inside Out/Outside In runs through August 3.