By Jerry Cullum for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Friday, Oct. 24, 1997
Bob Landström’s new paintings have the sandy texture and color of the West, with geometric drawings that somehow combine Native American petroglyphs with patterns invented by Wassily Kandinsky.
Symbols of transcendence and escape to other spiritual realms — such as the spiral and ladder — recur in understated color patterns.
Landström knows what he is doing both theoretically and technically: His mixture of crushed volcanic rock into the surface of the painting, for example, lends the work its unique texture. He isn’t afraid to combine spiritual references that at first blush might seem not to belong together, and his dexterity of inner composition carries him through moments when the outer composition might seem a little facile. The combination of meaning and style is fairly impressive.
Landström’s symbols suffer a little from familiarity, but they suggest a level of depth.
By Lyn Allgood for 30305 Magazine
Aaron Baldwin and Bob Landström are bonded by a quest to stir the emotions of their audience through art.
Trinity Gallery in Buckhead has wed the work of the two emerging Southern artists in a tour-de-force, promising collectors rare exposure to pieces massive in scale and import.
Both artists produce iconic imagery. Bob uses crushed volcanic rock in his primitive paintings of human forms to emphasize earthiness, and Aaron works in salvaged wood so that the viewer can “be seduced by the silhouette and surface of the object” and “question, perhaps at an intuitive level, its origin,” he says.
Aaron devotes hours to sketching and thinking about images in their simplest form before creating them. Later he sifts through mounds of hoarded wood to find just the right piece for the image he wants to capture. He constructs his pieces like boats, with skeletal frames that have thin strips or planks over them. “It’s important to me that they be hollow vessels, as a metaphor for human beings, i.e. a skin or covering over an unknown inside,” he says.
While nautical images come naturally to him from his coastal roots – his dad was a shrimper – his “vessels” are more metaphorical than replicas of actual boats. “I gather images from simp0le forms around me, fruits, vegetables, shell, and the human figure,” Aaron says. “I ask myself what is interesting, seductive, about them. It may be just a gentle curve or twist.”
Like Aaron’s, Bob Landström’s pieces play well against each other. Many of the glyphs and symbols in his paintings are also used in his five- and six-foot-tall totem sculptures. He, too, uses simple patterns and symbols in his work. “I am after the elemental piece of humanness we all share. I’m trying to touch that life energy, particularly drawing from Native American and African aboriginal mythology. They have a stronger spiritual connection than our contemporary culture. I react and build as I go,” he says.
He gets his material, crushed volcanic rock, from Navajo mines in Santa Fe, NM. “The material is a key component. I couldn’t just paint with paint,” Bob says. He combines the rock with oil, which gives it color and acts as an adhesive on canvas. All the elements in his structures are welded and forged from steel and then painted with naval vessel paint. “Working in steel is a real rush,” he says. “But it’s hard work. You have to want it bad to do it.”
Bob, 38, knows what it’s like to want something that much. He grew up in a Pittsburgh housing project. But neither the chiding of his peers nor his parents’ indifference to his pursuit of art deterred him. A prodigy at age 10, he was selected for a special program for gifted young people, consequently had the opportunity to attend Carnegie Mellon University and took courses in fine arts at night throughout High School.
After a few years he attended the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, where his own personal aesthetic began to emerge. While in Boston, Bob studied other religions and cultures and began to realize that he was seeing things differently than he had before and began expressing himself in his own vocabulary of symbols and signs. He discovered his own glyphs existed in ancient alphabets: Ogam, preceding the Druids; and Punic, a language that originated in the fertile crescent of the Middle East. He says he chose art and painting because spoken language tethers and constricts the flow of creative energy he is attempting to harness.
Bob has remained true to his personal drive to understand and interpret the spiritual yearnings he feels and shares with others that are intuitively and introspectively driven.