Hills & Gardens An Artist of ‘The Moment’

By Trudy Whitman

The most modest of partners, picture frames were devised to draw the eye to the art they surround. If they themselves steal the show, frames have failed at their job. As a pop-up art exhibit borrows their home for a holiday installation running December 15–20, the frames that usually hold court at the custom framing shop Make A Frame on Atlantic Avenue will recede gracefully behind drapery. This is so the art of Patrick Madden may have center stage. The show, “Atlantic Works,” is a result of collaboration among the artist, the shop, and the Gates-Anderson Company, an art dealer/consulting business founded by Caroline Anderson, a resident of Carroll Gardens.

Anderson explained that the work will be displayed on easels atop the counters that border the shop. In addition to oils, the show features drawings, prints, and small watercolors.

Patrick Madden’s work attests to a nomadic existence. An Ohio native born in 1956, he attended the University of Missouri on a golf scholarship and majored in art. He transferred to Kent State University, switching to sociology, before graduating from the University of South Carolina, where he focused on advertising and journalism. For 15 years Madden worked in advertising before becoming a full-time artist. He flew back and forth every two months between San Francisco and New York for eight years, until he took up permanent residence on the East Coast three years ago. A fixation on the Golden Gate Bridge, he said, was traded for one on the lighthouses of the Hudson River. More recently, it is New York City that drives his work.

The artist said that his primary quest is to “make an emotionally accurate depiction of a moment.” When he paints the Brooklyn Bridge, for example, he conjures up, among other things, not only what he sees and feels during cab rides over the bridge but also the men who built the structure. Madden searches for “a physically accurate jumping off point—something recognizable, something Roebling would agree with,” he explained.

For the series “Breuckelen,” the painter interprets, among other subjects, the Brooklyn Bridge and Jane’s Carousel. In some of the pieces, Madden focuses on the interplay of the old and new by first making rubbings of the bridge’s architectural details such as bricks, bolts, and trolley rails. He does the same for the carousel’s wagons, horses, and signage. (Indeed, Jane’s Carousel is already iconic in its own right as a representation of Brooklyn’s renewal.) Layered on top of these reliefs is a modern wash of color and brushstroke. Another layer of rubbings completes the work.

For Caroline Anderson, the artist’s process brings forth a “powerful interplay” of the notion of historical preservation coinciding with the “fierce energy of change swirling around and propelling forward.”

Patrick Madden’s most recent solo show was at Constantine Art Gallery in Istanbul, Turkey, in 2010, and before that at the Hammertown Gallery in Rhinebeck, New York. His work was also featured in a 2010 show in California at San Francisco’s Hyde Street Gallery.

Make A Frame is a Cobble Hill shop that has stood the test of time. In 2010 it was purchased by Thoren Vadala, store manager since 2004. With a print and model-making background, Vadala noted that framing was a natural fit for his skills and talent. He likens the art of frame making to the work of iconic graphic designer Saul Bass. For additional information on the Patrick Madden show, email Caroline Anderson at caroline@ gates-anderson.com.

“Atlantic Works,” by Patrick Madden, December 15–20, Make A Frame, 180 Atlantic Avenue, 718 875-6150

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Filed under Arts, Brooklyn Heights, Carroll Gardens

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