When we look at the painting, Night Life,we understand that it’s a city night scene. We get that because of the suggestion of white linen tablecloths, the couple, arm in arm, out on the town, the glittering lights.
But what may not register immediately with us is what else we get, subliminally. Dynamics are imparted to us as we stand in front of the work of art that are hard to put into words. Small things. Triggers. Things that make us mindful of our own agendas and experiences.
A lot of Flohr’s work does that, primarily because of the nature of his style—the seeming brevity, the shorthand, the suggestion of imagery. We take it from there.
In late 19th Century Paris, there was an influential art dealer by the name of Ambroise Vollard who represented many of the then unknown Impressionist painters—before they called it Impressionism. When selling the works, he used to insist the patron was seeing ‘too much’ of the painting by staring right at it. He would take a small card, poke a hole in it with a pencil and make the patron stand back, and view the painting through the tiny aperture in the paper.
“You see?!” he would exclaim, ‘one needs only the essence of the scene to understand the emotion.”
Flohr’s work does that without the card.
We see and feel and hear the essence of the scene as though looking at it through a small hole. But in this case, the hole has tiny tears in it. That’s what takes us into an improvisation of the scene. Our imagination. So that every time we come back to the painting, we see something different.
But Flohr sees to it that we stay in the chords.
Cities—especially vibrant ones such as Flohr’s most oft-used choice, San Francisco—have a current. A pace. A ‘groove’. And as much as we like to associate “I Left My Heart In San Francisco,” with that city, when we go there at night, we just don’t hear Tony Bennett in our minds. We hear something a little more frenetic. A little more ‘allegretto.’ We hear Coltraine. We hear Dizzy. We hear Jazz.Flohr’s work, in my mind, is the visual equivalent of Jazz music. Jazz takes an eight or sixteen bar phrase, establishes it as a theme, then strays into an improvisational interpretation of that theme by seeing how far out it can get while still staying in the chords—which, by the way, is the origin of the 60’s hippy phrase, ‘far out’. Flohr’s work does that, too.
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