Newsday - February 26, 1988

Icons From A Self-Taught Painter

by Karin Lipson

EMERGING ARTIST” is an overworked phrase, applied to those who are not only little-known at the moment, but are, often enough, likely to stay that way. But the term seems to fit Max Coyer, a 34-year-old painter who’s being given a one-man show at the Hillwood Art Gallery. A largely self-taught artist who only began painting six years ago, Coyer was given this exhibition because the Hillwood Gallery’s director, Judy Collischan Van Wagner, felt his steady development as an artist hadn’t met with enough critical attention.

Ironically, since this exhibition was planned, Coyer has been taken on by the Gruenebaum Gallery in New York, which gave him a solo show last fall. That doesn’t exactly propel him into stardom, but it’s a nice step forward for a still relatively “new” painter.

And just what sort of a painter is he? From the looks of the Hillwood Gallery show -which covers the last five years, virtually his entire career – Coyer is a talented, prolific artist whose love affair with paint and its manifold possibilities is going full tilt. There is in his work a sense of experimentation, of luxuriating in an almost voluptuous freedom to paint, that may reflect his relatively late beginnings.

Working on canvas and wood, Coyer lays one thin, translucent layer of paint over another, so that multiple bands of color come through to the surface, creating a surprisingly rich effect. He paints over images, nearly obliterating them (though letting a hand or a leg poke out here and there), or scrapes off the paint, leaving little ruts of color that travel across faces and figures. Gold leaf is spread over knobby wood and around protruding nails, the rich gilding contrasting with the rough-hewn surface. Torsos of 19th-Century ladies in their dŽcolletŽ gowns – images taken right out of Ingres – are topped by frightening looking shamanistic masks. The result of Coyer’s strange admixture is sometimes repellent, but just as often compelling in its ambiguity.

MAX COYER: ÊIcon and Iconography – Paintings of the last five years by this young, self-taught artist, through March 18 at the Hillwood Art Gallery, C. W. Post campus, Brookville. Hours: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. weekdays except Wednesday; 10 a.m.-9 p.m. Wednesday; 1-5 p.m. Sunday. Closed Saturday.