LA SALON / OPENING RECEPTION 6-8pm FEBRUARY 24, 2018
Aaron Wrinkle carefully pauses and rewinds the drive towards conceptual negation that has propelled art since the ‘70s. The intention to embed critique within the artwork can become self- reflexive. Contemporary painting is expected to demonstrate its social-analytical relevance in a way similar to how mid-century painting had to demonstrate its autonomy. Contemporary critics tend to demand that painting in particular be aware of its art historical deaths and that it prove its right to an afterlife through either canny self-deconstruction or delivery of discursive content (communicating a message). After over fifty years of valuing dematerialization, the interrogation of artistic context, and the skeptical analysis of creative subjectivity, we are somewhat suspicious of the combination of painting and pleasure. And yet, paintings by definition have affect, a somatic projection composed of the residues of their embodied making (materials, touch, gazes). These resonate for the engaged viewer in a way that is more mordant and haunted than can be contained by explanation.
Wrinkle’s development as an artist was shaped by picturaphobia. His art school training in the anti- object values of conceptualism directed him towards performance, curatorial collaborations, and ephemeral installations. In adding a rigorous painting practice to these media of refusal and examination, Wrinkle does not intend to leave behind the art of ideas, but rather to experiment with painting as a vehicle of many related principles such as art historical confrontation, the constraints of found materials, and thinking about embodiment.
Conceptual artists have informed Wrinkle’s work continuously, notably Douglas Huebler and Dan Graham. He has taken these artists’ agnosticism in relation to painting as a challenge to integrate, if not reconcile, semiotics and expression. Wrinkle offers, “Michael Asher once stated he didn't understand how painting could be conceptual. I find that to be a realistic approach – a question to figure out.” This poker-faced interpretation of negation as an invitation to inquiry is part of the humor of Wrinkle’s painting. It’s art historical quotations are about learning and play rather than collecting dead things. The material frankness of the simplified color studies and the awkward textures and dimensions of the previously used canvases looks like the result of an Intro to Modernism correspondence course conducted by mail – in a good way. The approach is not naïve, but it’s open-ended. Strategies of sincerity are usually either ironic or a sign of oblivious privilege. Wrinkle navigates around those snares precisely through trial and error, by posing visual questions, and by ignoring the premise that thesis and feeling are mutually exclusive.
SALOMON HUERTA STILL LIFES / JANUARY 6-FEBRUARY 10, 2018
Huerta’s painting style is in the tradition of Pop realism, where the textures of the visible are smoothed out and the contours sharpened with a somewhat flattening, graphic effect. These simplified surfaces with clear but creamy edges are often rendered with paint that thickens and swirls unexpectedly in a background passage of the picture. Huerta’s facture has a dimensionality that exceeds the modest illusionism of his depictions. The artist has described how a dense opacity of paint can create an internal glow and this is evident in the still life works in particular. These paintings suggest Giorgio Morandi with the light of Southern California rather than Northern Italy.
Huerta’s body of work includes many portraits without faces – masked luchadores, figures with heads turned away or cropped out. His still life paintings are faceless portraits in their own way as well, both self-portraits and evocations of the artist’s father. In place of the father’s likeness are memory- objects – startling, mundane, and elegiac. The repetition between paintings suggests memory itself, reiterations of something experienced that changes in the retelling. Each time, on a corner of table that shades from cool gray to rosy cream, two or three items sit, one of which is always a wood-handled pistol. The gun rotates across the various paintings, turning each time on the table, but always at rest, casting different densities of shadow. The other item is food or drink – milk, water, an apple, a nopale cactus pad. The gun is Huerta’s father’s and the artist would bring the refrigerios to him and place them on the bedside table, alongside the weapon. The still life objects are an austere ofrenda. The father is to be served and appeased in exchange for his powers to provide and guard. The pistol surprises the viewer, but does not seem to signify threat. It is intimate rather than aggressive. This is an oblique and biographical reference to living in Boyle Heights and to the protection of family in an environment of violence.
Luchadores are theatrically brave, an entertaining performance of male conflict. The masks of the fighters resemble the ski masks of criminals, but festively colorful. As with the recumbent pistol, these strange covered faces read as masculine power without danger. Presenting Chicano pop culture and daily life with sensitive conversance, Huerta’s look at the familiar – both personal and cultural – is a challenge to our moment of oppressive stereotypes and objectification, of grotesque fantasies of separation and difference such as “beautiful” border walls. Huerta’s work is framed by our nation’s grim and painful backlash against brown skin and polyglot communities, against affinities and attractions, shared ideas and desires across traditions. Salomon Huerta’s work stands on its own as rich and allusive reflection on identity, but it stands out right now as a reserve of humane nuance in a time of vicious regression.
ANTHONY JAMES / OCTOBER 6-DECEMBER 31, 2017
Anthony James’ work takes up the concepts of the universal and transcendental in order to demonstrate the impossibility of their representation. The historical cosmology of Plato is a primary inspiration, both for the sculptures of icosahedrons and for the silhouette of Baroque architect Francesco Borromini’s dome for Sant’Ivo in Rome. Colorful rings of neon nod to the ancient concept of the universe as a set of concentric planetary orbits.The effect is both esoteric and industrial, orphic and distinctly concrete. Modern art historical references abound as well – Bruce Nauman, Ellsworth Kelly, Minimalism – but the artist’s attention is on the wonderment and possibility presented by distant ideals.
Borromini was an adept of Neoplatonism and the designs of his buildings are expressions of its celestial symbolisms. Platonism posits a universe of ideal order and form accessible to reason.To echo this order and those forms in the material human realm is to attempt to synchronize our chaotic mortal world of appearances and sensations with the models of perfection attainable through the intellect. James’ sculptures and wall installations are representations of these metaphysical models. Because depiction of something beyond experience is impossible, James’ artworks have a peculiar sensibility, the melancholy precision and intentness of simulations.
The immersive, fluid convexity of space in Sant’Ivo becomes a thin, curved plane in metal hammered by hand to a muted sheen. It is the dome’s miniaturized, materialized shadow. Borromini’s revolutionary twisting star design has fallen into the present as a dark, contoured plane of steel that nonetheless retains some of the grace of the architectural original in the curves and points along its edges.
Icosahedrons – the geometric globes of twenty identical triangular facets – were a mathematical experiment in unity used by Plato to demonstrate an ideal compositional system of perfect symmetry in three dimensions. In a twenty-first century gallery space, the glass, steel, titanium, and LED structures bring a rigid and gleaming tangibility to the abstraction of the numerical calculation of flawless coherence. James’ objects are compelling approximations, facsimiles of understanding and belief thou- sands of years old that come down to us on our own terms of modern metals and technological light.
The neon spectrum works that provide the title for James’ exhibition are particularly poignant in the tension between references, effects, and materials. The Absolute Zero works are meticulously calibrated spectra of colored neon tubes arranged in concentric circles to evoke the radiance of sacred enlightenment.The hue and intensity of the colors are designed to create white light.The historical references here span empirical experimentation with prisms to the image, across cultures, of the universe-wheel. Neon is already in our time a somewhat outworn material and the visible wires and plugs that trail from the vibrant rings interrupt any illusions of transcendence.This is the paradox that James’ objects show, a formal certainty and perspicuity (exact symmetry, white light, accurate shape) that registers a loss of purity or autonomy or wholeness. His works illustrate ideals, but they themselves are very contingent and actual, particular, not universal: they are for today.
Anthony James "Fabulism," Fort Gansevort May 18th-July 8th
5 Ninth Avenue NYC 10014