The fact that Corbin Doyle may want to say something is a good thing. The fact that he is currently almost silent, despite the many stories behind his work, comes as a disappointment. For his exhibition at Mulcahy Modern, Little Fighter, he shows very little fight and pulls all punches, but the mea culpa of the show’s title doesn’t help much. The work is fairly poorly crafted. That is not a problem. The work is eclectic in style and content, even haphazard. That is not a problem. The subjects the artist chooses are utterly cliché. In Doyle’s case (for cliché has its place) that is a problem.
For instance, a real David Bates is bad enough, but is a bad version of David Bates” shtick (Picking up the Dove II) a way to salvation, or even humor? Can a dead bird do much for us anymore after Albert Pinkham Ryder, even if we know Doyle’s stories (Blackbird or Blue Jay with Morning Glories, Night or Waxwing and Amaryllis)? Does a coarsely-drawn sketch lend interest or directness to a banal bar scene (Lighting the Cigarette)? What the hell, you be the judge. But these images did not send me or bring me home, they just put me up in a generic hotel somewhere.
Without a doubt, there is an element of poetry in certain works in this exhibition. Even Blackbird, despite its worn subject, comes across as a statement of love with every stroke, Doyle’s brush caresses the bird, who rests on a carefully rendered china plate in, hmm, eternal sleep. And there is something wonderfully knowing and BLAH-BLAH about The Texas Breaks III and The Texas Breaks II, which hang side-by-side in the show, blah-blah.
If Doyle can push the easy-way-out easiness of these tentative works to truly sublime volume levels, maybe I’ll be able to get more from his silence.
Jeff Dalton is a writer living in Dallas, Texas.