Night Shade presents a group of artists whose work creates an ebb and flow between the graphic and the ethereal, flatness and depth, photographic and painterly concerns.
Continuing to needle perceptions of leisure and labor, Colby Bird has taken over all aspects of production processes which are typically outsourced: photography and framing. Bird’s subject matter remains cliched activities of “the artist” (in this case, casual museum-touring, and idle wine sipping), putting his subject matter in opposition to the effort involved in creating the works. The photographic image,(here a wine glass on a living room carpet and a Joel Shapiro sculpture in a museum), becomes a cypher more than a subject.
Using the restricted palette of traditional underpainting, (burnt sienna, van dyke brown, black and white), Steven Cox separates and reconstructs the canvas plane into dazzling visual depth and texture. Through horizontal and vertical repetition of color, pattern, and layering, the artist explores the possibilities of the linear stripe. The paintings nod to poetic structures like stanzas, as flat monochrome planes are aligned alongside spray painted gestural marks and densely layered surfaces of oil and negative space. Cox pays homage to his homeland through his physical use of Hessian Jute for material as well as with painting titles that reference Scottish poet, Robert Burns. The beautiful, battered and wise surfaces of these delicately labored paintings share a kinship with the emotional polarities of Burn’s classic writings.
Chris Duncan’s twelve sun exposure paintings on view each represent a monthly cycle culminating in a full moon. To make the works, fabric was wrapped around 14” drum/percussion cymbals and placed on a rooftop in Oakland, California for a six-month interval. The works were then harvested on a full moon, washed, and stretched. In another body of work, the subtle nuance and detail created by the months-long exposures is contrasted with bold saturated acrylic color, applied in the studio. This immediate, painterly, action is married with nature’s mark of time and the elements as they occur on their own accord.
While colorful plants grace gallery walls as outlets to otherworldly tranquillity, Arielle Falk offers an alternative perspective of the palm tree. Using a heat gun, she disintegrates commercially-manufactured murals depicting idyllic tropical stock imagery intended as inspirational office backdrops. Burning away these generic paradisiacal scenes illuminates and destroys the chimerical, ever-present sense of wanting, “fantasy”. The beauty of the human imagination, which invokes our drive to desire, inherently possesses a shadowy side. When glorified longing remains unfulfilled, dreams become nightmares. Falk examines when lofty fantasies transgress into mirage veiling escapist traps. With paradise lost, its charred remains survive as a devastating distraction.
Bryan Graf’s electric photograms take us into a methodical study of expressionistic, improvisational forms. Graf’s photographs explore the formal possibilities of graph paper-like cloth, following billows and undulations of the line as they create elegant surface variations that wander from dark to light. His compositions are dense and layered, turning the wrinkled mesh into complex transparent piles that bulge and crumple in thick puddles of loosely strewn fabric; in some we trace the contours like the squiggled wavy lines of a topographical map, in others we peer through jumbled haphazard folds, the tossed together overlapped mesh becoming a misty, ghostly scrim.
Ryan Steadman’s abstractions based on books utilize a range of sources from rare Bauhaus designs to New Wave-inspired publications. These life-sized paintings employ a wide variety of painting techniques in order to jolt the viewer out of purely recognizing the subject, instead inviting them to quietly meditate on the harmonic yet unexpected balances of painted colors and shapes. Inspired by both Claes Oldenburg’s early reimagining of familiar objects, as well as by the minimalist gestures of colorists like John McLaughlin, Steadman exalts in simultaneously creating an abstract image and a representational object-in-the-round with paint. By doing this, the artist not only riffs on different eras of design (including the iconic work of master book cover illustrators such as Saul Bass and Paul Bacon) via both organic curves and geometric forms, but he also references the accidental jagged rips and blobby stains of these aged and worn items. In Steadman’s work, the book also stands as a symbol of painting itself; a relic in terms of transmitting language which leads one to contemplate both medias current uses and the unique features we’re losing in our more “advanced” forms of communication.