Creative Loafing - March 1988

Coyer Flowers Art History

by Ruth Hartness

I freely admit it. I love flowers. Doesn’t everyone? Even the most hardened cynic has to acknowledge the beauty inherent in one of nature’s best giveaways.

But we all know that serious artists don’t paint flowers They’re too, well, pretty. And pretty pictures are readily dismissed as decorative, the dirty word of modern art.

Well, guess what? Max Coyer is a serious, nationally recognized artist, and for the past couple of years, he’s gone out on a limb – literally. Coyer does flowers, but he does them with a twist. In his paintings, he grapples with past movements in art – American Impressionism, 17th Century Dutch and the architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright. Ostensibly, flowers are Coyer’s subject matter. In reality, Coyer paints art history.

But this isn’t to say you’ve got to have a master’s degree in art history to appreciate these works. Coyer gives us stunning, sensual images that both the pedantic pedestrian and the Ph.D. can enjoy.

Also, it would be a mistake to assume that the 13 coyer paintings on view at Fay Gold’s gallery are all variations on a theme. Within the body of Coyer’s work, there are remarkable differences in intent, in brushwork, and in psychological impact on the viewer. for instance, i n”Pierced Hearts” the strokes are powerful and angry. The force of the artist’s hand combined with a liberal use of red pigment results in a startling, almost violent oil on canvas.

Right next to “Pierced Hearts” Gold ha hung “Round Black Vase,” a soft, lyrical gouache on paper. Indeed, “Round Black Vase” is so soft it could be considered (gasp) decorative, except for the sense of adventure and raw energy the artist imbues with his swirling patterns merging into horizontal lines at the bottom of the piece. Alright, it may be slightly decorative, but “Round Black Vase” is a live with the artist’s presence.

Gold ha hung two other pieces side by side (or at least at right angles) that allow for interesting contrast. “Station” is easily the most abstract work in the show; that there are flowers in there somewhere is barely recognizable. “Station” practically leaps off the wall with exuberance. A few inches away, “The Passage” is orderly and precise, with definite geometric shapes (a nod to Frank Lloyd Wright) and an Oriental peace pervading the work.

That both “Station” and “The Passage” are works of one artist is a testament to Coyer’s versatility, breadth of knowledge and experience. Don’t miss the recent works of this 34-year old master. And if you can afford it (the works range in price from $1,800 to $8,500), you can actually acquire a pretty picture without feeling apologetic for abandoning serious art. Coyer’s work is beautiful and intellectually stimulating at the same time. We should all be so lucky.

Pictured: Timber, Oil on canvas