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VONN SUMNER’s “Bread and Circuses (and Walls) reviewed in The Washington Post

4 Oct

VONN SUMNER, A Big Fat Beautiful Wall, 2017, 80″x65″, acrylic and collage on linen

Vonn Sumner

A Californian whose ancestors lived in that state when it was still part of Mexico, Vonn Sumner is not one of the “build the wall” crowd. His response to that chant is the series of paintings in “Bread and Circuses (and Walls).” The biggest piece in the Morton Fine Art show, “A Big Fat Beautiful Wall,” stacks bricklike blocks of bright color, each rectangle graced with a traditional Mexican decorative paper appliqué. The painter also depicts barriers that almost hide the carnival-style festivities behind them.

Updating a phrase that dates to Juvenal, who satirized life in Rome almost two millennia ago, Sumner paints jesters in colorful, bellfestooned hoods. Many of the performers have loaves of Mexican-style sweet bread balanced on their heads. The clowns look sideways at the edge of the pictures, skeptically avoiding the viewer’s gaze. They don’t want to join the circus parade.

Sumner paints in a realist style, deftly employing modeling and shadow to simulate roundness and depth. Yet he intentionally simplifies, notably by using areas of intense, simple hues that suggest both comic books and color-field painting. The effect is to invoke universal forms — things that will outlast the biggest, most beautiful wall. Vonn Sumner: Bread and Circuses (and Walls) On view through Oct. 3 at Morton Fine Art, 1781 Florida Ave. NW. 202-628-2787. mortonfineart.com.

Click HERE to view available artwork by VONN SUMNER.