Portland Community College | Portland, Oregon Portland Community College

Conversation by Joseph Mann

  • Title: Conversation
  • Artist: Joseph Mann
  • Medium: Oil on canvas
  • Size: 15"h x 12"w
  • Added to collection: 2004
  • Donor: Purchased by Portland Community College, Rock Creek Campus
  • Campus: Rock Creek
  • Location: B9/2 Library

Two figures move together in silhouette, leaning towards one another against a bright window.  The application of paint is thick and gestural, yet the more one looks at the figure on the right, the more realistic it becomes, with its subtle awareness of the balance of weight on hip, tilt of shoulders and angle of head.  The figure on the left is more crudely painted, and the red dress would jump forward were it not for the audaciously long, dry, black stroke of the arm (?). John Keats wrote that negative capability was the quality of an intelligence able to hold two contradictory ideas simultaneously and still function;  this painting shows an artist able to reconcile the love of the visible world and the plastic needs of the painting.  Critic Ken Dixon, in appraising Mann's work, noted that "these are pictures that assert the radical proposition that it is possible for a work to be both stunning and authentic simultaneously."