Reviews and art comments -- Harry F. Roche, SF Bay Guardian

Review of an exhibit at Singing-in-the-Stone, San Francisco

Berkeley gadfly John Sheridan's "Gravity" paintings put a postmodern spin on art history and pop culture using recycled images from the freewheeling '50s as their point of departure. Even as the confrontational tondo, Circus Queen Descending, quotes everything from Botticelli's Birth of Venus to Manet's Olympia, Sheridan lifts his leggy models and titillating titles (Jail Bait, Juvenile Jungle, Easy to Pickup, Girls in Prison) from pulpy paperbacks, campy comics, and teenage trash-film promo posters of the period. Like Peggy Sue, Sheridan's harem of bodacious bitchin' babes in tight skirts and sensible shoes are caught in that "We Like Ike" timewarp when sex was a four-letter word and good girls didn't. Like seismic sediment mirroring the pent-up passions rumbling beneath pre-Peyton Place America, kaleidosocpic waves of liquid acrylic rock and roll across Sheridan's canvases and swirl around his statuesque figures like psychedelic sandstorms. Though these stormy and steamy gravity paintings routinely elicit shrieks accusing them of sexploitation, they remain uplifting.

Excerpt of a Review of an exhibit at E'Space, San Francisco

…Political-correctness prisoner John Sheridan continues to mine '50s camp for obscure visual nuggets; recent "gravity" paintings like Doctor X (marks the spot!) should elicit the usual shrieks charging sexploitation….


Review of UNTRUE BELIEVER at the French Hotel

Berkeley, CA

Works on canvas and drawings by John Sheridan

Art, food and sex sometimes add up to a stick three-course disaster in Berkeley. East Bay painter-provocateur John Sheridan ran afoul of the local sex police when a woman thought she spied a large penis lurking within the acrylic nebula of one of his abstract "gravity paintings' hanging at Au Coquelet. Not only was the work in question removed, Sheridan's entire show was taken down in deference to her hallucination. Fortunately the French Hotel, a nearby café and site of Sheridan's Exhibition "Untrue Believer," doesn't appear to cater to the same clientele. The 11 large-scale canvases and smaller pastels on marbelized paper now on view are littered with loners who have just emerged from psych(edel)ic wormholes (The Cybernaut, The Vanishing American, Dr. X, The Love Offering, Kanteen Kate) and a working-class, pop-Americana past (resurrected mainly via 1950s pulp novels, campy comics, and trash film-promo posters - Edouard Manet goes back to the future). To achieve these poignant and pervasive four dimensions of separation, Sheridan floats hyperrealistic figures on top of abstract Jackson Pollock-meets-Captain Marvel backgrounds.


Excerpt of A Review of the exhibit ACME CUSTOM, San Francisco, CA

Berkeley painter John Sheridan's canvases Heaven's My Destination and Edsel are colorfully set adrift in the Freality Zone, a murky realm where fantasy and reality coalesce. Sheridan's hallucinatory '58 Edsel is a particularly artful acid trip: the hyperrealistically rendered vehicle-cum-symbol - the stuff American dreams are made of - floats in a psychedelic red, white and yellow nebula.


Foreword for 20-year Retrospective of work of John Sheridan by Harry Roche

John Sheridan's 20-year back-to-the future retrospective of painting, sculpture, and performance powerfully conveys just what a weird, warped, tumultuous, and mythic place America is: a schizoid culture perennially at
war with itself (not to mention the world at large). From early performances (e.g. the 'Hitler Toss' at Fisherman's Wharf) to the iconic canvases of the '90s (*Doctor X*; *The Night of Darwin*) gravity's unpredicatable pull continues to play a pivotal role. As the artist cultivates a compelling Jackson Pollock-meets-Captain Marvel aesthetic, he floats hyperealistic figures (resurrected from moldy undervalued secondary sources--B-movie posters, pulp novel covers, etc.) atop ebb-tiding abstract nebulae.

In an art-negative society that pillories art--and artists-- as either frivolous or dangerous, perhaps it's not surprising that Sheridan's paintings have periodically elicited myopic shrieks of 'sexploitation' (populated, as they are, with a sex-positive cast of bodacious femmes, as well chisled beefcakes like 'George Brush' and 'Captain Triumph') and have felt the sting of the censors lash.

If most explicit in recent barbed sculpture incorporating Barbie and G.I. Joe, political undertows ---revolving around race, sex, class, and gender-- continue to churn uneasily beneath the controlled chaos of the canvases' whorling backgrounds. And like the pregnant conundrums of his 19th-century artist hero, Edouard Manet, Sheridan's images revel in their own ambiguity. As the millenium grinds to a halt, Sheridan has created a distinctive body of pop-surrealist Americana.


Copyright © 2005 Harry Roche