An Allegory of Faith
(George Deem) paints versions of Vermeer, but not in the usual, and by now superficial, postmodern sense of "quoting" or "appropriating" the Dutch master. Rather, he skillfully executes a Vermeer, but without the people present in those lush, redolent interiors, as in "An Allegory of Faith," 2002.... In a sense he is creating what I would call a temporal collage. Where the founders of cubism used commercially manufactured wallpaper in newly spatialized combinations with other graphic material to open up the semantic code of the represented image, Deem uses our memory of the "true" Vermeer as a present absence to qualify what we are seeing. But as with the well known use of modernist collage, the irony cuts both ways. We "see" a Vermeer that is not there, and we see a Vermeer-like effect that is altogether there. Deem's great technical skill -- which he himself mocks or self-criticizes by painting in test patches or uneven, roughly executed borders -- allows for something like a negative dialectic.... In what we can call "temporal collage" (as opposed to the spatial variety), we see two differently temporalized images. The historical context of one image, or its partial representation, is being juxtaposed against another historical moment, or against the "now" of the painting.... In the "now" of the painting that uses temporal collage we experience a framework that appears folded against itself, or is like two facing mirrors. The original Vermeer, or rather our memory of it, is what gives the Deem work its temporal definition as an echo or recovered memory, even as it reasserts the historicity of the Vermeer, which our recollection has presented to us less as an historical object than as a memory that is both willfully invoked and involuntary.
(Charles Molesworth, "How To Live in an Image World: The Strategies of Memory," Salmagundi, Summer-Fall, Skidmore College, Saratoga Springs, New York, 2003)
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