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HAVE FAITH IN MAGIC

by Paul Richard

"Have Faith In Magic" is the title of William Newman's mechanized and sexy show at David Adamson's.  Newman, 37, who's been teaching at the Corcoran for a dozen years, draws with brushes, pencils, Q-tip swabs, even paper towels.  Because he has a skilled hand, and can catch a likeness, one is surprised to find here that he of late has placed his faith not in magic only but in digitizers, pixels and a Macintosh computer.

The artist has a storeroom filled with photographs he's torn from books and magazines.  But he no longer needs them.  Now his borrowed images -- of Tom and Jerry, Elvis, Betty Boop and the Cheshire Cat -- are hey-look-ma-no-hands pictures produced by his machines.

The young couple he's portrayed in "Whatcha Thinkin' - Mitsubishi Electric" are lost in their own thoughts.  So, soon enough, are we: His thoughts - of Miss Boop and Miss Universe - appear in a red panel by his cogitating image; hers - of war and warriors - float next to her head.  The couple is hand-painted.  But the pictures of their thoughts are computer-generated stills mechanically extracted from videotapes and television shows.

Newman says he likes to paint with "three TVs and the stereo on.  The more happening, the better."  And one sees that in his art.  The blue nude thrashing in ecstasy in "Having Faith" is portrayed on two strips of plastic, one black and one white.  Her body has been drawn with color pencils, but her hair is splattered paint, as if dripped by Jackson Pollock.  Newman varies his materials.  Other pictures here are done on paper or on cloth.

One of them, "Impress Me", blends romantic play and menace.  The male figure in it appears to be his strangling his love, until we notice she is laughing.  Another unexpected laugh - a giant, slow-dissolving one - is suggested by the Cheshire cat that grins behind their heads.  The cat's face both drawn and distorted by computer.  Only if one puts one's face flush against the wall, and views the painting from the side, can one read it clearly.

Newman's art has long explored the dreaminess and angers and shifting viewpoints of romance.  That odd device, that stretching-out, makes clear what was before implied: Relationships are fluid, passing time distorts the sure, lovers share a single point of view.