Thomas Woodruff’s paintings do not shy from ornamentation. They are insistently lush, not only through the simple visual stimulation of varied colors or precise detail, but in their presumed backstories. You could say that Woodruff has an allegorical style — the scenes depicted (whether of vengeful jungle animals, underwater interspecies marriages, or illusionary clowns) are so magically complete in their strange stagings that they must be a rigorously blocked scene from an ongoing play in his head. Everything seems rife with significance, either as symbol or reference, triggering the viewer to make up her or his own entire (albeit fantastical) histories around a single image.
His current series of paintings and drawings, “Legends of the Mysterious Rocks” (on display at Mark Moore Gallery in Culver City until February 15) follows the life of a feral child, raised by magpies, who develops fantastical abilities from being repeatedly struck by lightning. A self-described “neo-fabulist,” Woodruff does not shy from mixing the fantastical with contemporary references. He serves as the Chairman of the Illustration and Cartooning Departments at the School of Visual Arts in NYC, where he has taught for nearly the last thirty years.