Mettle Beyond the Metal
By Tom Wachunas
EXHIBIT: Works by Patrick Buckohr / at Strauss Studios, Upstairs Gallery, 236 Walnut Ave. NE, in downtown Canton / 330.456.0300/ THROUGH MARCH 25, 2022 / Viewing Hours: Monday – Friday 10a.m. – 5p.m.
As of this writing, Patrick Buckohr has installed 63 works of public art – murals and large-scale iron works - at various locations in Northeast Ohio over the past 15 years. Here in Canton, he’s gained considerable notoriety for his big outdoor metal sculptures, including several playful animal forms from his “Critters” series.
So yes, there are some smaller 3D works in metal here. Among those are his steel Feather pieces, crafted with mind-blowing precision, and his exquisitely intricate (steel) Black Squirrel.
But the most surprising components of this exhibit - which is Buckohr’s first solo show since 2011 – aren’t about sculpture or metal. I didn’t realize that the artist was such a deft wielder of the brush. Here is Patrick Buckohr, the painter.
His three black-and-white watercolors, along with three larger mixed-media paintings, are impressive demonstrations of facile draftsmanship and expressive tonality. One of the watercolors depicts a road construction worker stooped over a tiny manual air pump, trying to inflate a monster-sized flat tire. The piece is called, appropriately enough, Futile. More than an entertaining sight gag, the image feels like a timely commentary on societal ineptitudes during troubled times.
Futile is an arresting emblem of world-weariness. A kindred spirit resonates in Buckohr’s mixed-media Bombraid (4’ x 6’), painted on planks of salvaged plywood. With his hands pressed against his ears, a boy on his knees cowers under a desk. Again, a timely aura, a haunting relevance. While the painting is a brooding remembrance of those schoolroom duck-and-cover air raid drills from the 1950s, is it not also a woeful reflection of here-and-now Ukraine?
In another big painting, Morris and Judith (6’ x 5’), the figurative brushwork is raw and loose, rendered with a palette of muted purples, smoky grays, and motley earth tones. These are hardly party-time colors. Still, the couple twirls and quick-steps their Lindy Hop, seeming not to care they’re dancing in the dark. Judith wears a fierce, determined grin, as if to say, “Morris, honey, it’s us against the world!”
When the going gets tough, the tough get dancing. Or painting.