Bill VanSiclen's June 15th review of the show in the Providence Journal:
Old garde, avant masters
Still think the Old Masters and the avant garde can't make nice? If so, prepare to have your consciousness raised by Alex Barton, a talented young RISD grad whose darkly unsettling paintings are on display at Providence's Gallery Agniel.
Following in the footsteps of tradition-minded contemporary artists such as John Currin and Odd Nerdrum, Barton has immersed himself in everything from Old Master portraiture to the wax-based painting technique known as encaustic. He then uses these ancient methods to produce strikingly contemporary portraits, mainly of his friends in Providence's underground art and music scene.
Saint Jacques, for example, is a portrait of Dan St. Jacques, a member of the noise-rock band Olneyville Sound System. With his shaved head and formidably tattooed torso, St. Jacques certainly looks threatening. Yet his open-armed pose, which echoes of Renaissance depictions of Christ on the Cross, also gives him a sense of humanity and even vulnerability.
Another Barton work, Preparative Arms of Arkansas, is even more striking. It shows a fierce-looking young man brandishing a shotgun while wearing a bunny mask around his neck. Under the circumstances, it's hard to know which is more disturbing, the gun or the bunny.
In addition to Barton, the show features works by several other painters. Tom Sgouros contributes a series of his "remembered landscapes" -- so-called because Sgouros, who suffers from a severe eye disease called macular degeneration, paints almost entirely from memory. Mark Freedman is represented by a group of dark-toned industrial landscapes, several of which are relieved by flashes of bright, electric color. And Monica Shinn contributes a batch of small, sketch-like paintings that display a deadpan sense of whimsy.